A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms from crystallization of excreted substances in the urine. The stone may remain in the kidney or break loose and travel down the urinary tract. A small stone may pass all of the way out of the body, but a larger stone can get stuck in a ureter, the bladder, or the urethra. This may block the flow of urine and cause great pain. A kidney stone may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a pearl, and some are as big as golf balls. They may be smooth, irregular in shape, or jagged, and are usually yellow or brown in color.
Living with kidney stones can be quite painful. But with newer, minimally invasive treatments, removing them doesn’t have to be.
The urologist at Three Rivers Medical Center specializes in laser lithotripsy – an incision-free procedure that uses a laser to break kidney stones into tiny pieces. This technology may offer you a number of benefits compared to invasive surgery, including less pain, faster recovery and quicker return to your life.
About the Procedure
During laser lithotripsy, your urologist passes a thin, flexible instrument (ureteroscope) through the urinary tract. Once the stones are located, they are targeted and broken apart with an ultra-precise, state-of-the-art laser. The pieces are then immediately removed by your doctor using a special basket or left to wash out of the body with normal urine flow.
With advances in technology, laser lithotripsy has become the preferred treatment for small-to-medium sized kidney stones. Your doctor will help determine if you’re a good candidate, usually when other non-surgical options haven’t worked or if kidney stones are:
- Too large to pass
- Irregular in shape
- Causing bleeding or damage to surrounding tissue
It is also an alternative to extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), in which sound waves from outside the body are used to break up the stones. While both treatments are effective, laser lithotripsy can improve targeting no matter the size, location and/or hardness of the stones.
Recovery & Follow-Up Care
At Three Rivers Medical Center, we usually perform the procedure on an outpatient basis under general anesthesia, allowing you to leave the hospital the same day and recover comfortably at home.
A small tube, called a stent, may be temporarily placed to help the kidney drain after the procedure. We can take out the stent quickly and easily in the office without the need for anesthesia.
Most stone fragments that are not removed pass out of the body within 24 hours, though sometimes it can take many weeks. Your doctor may also recommend preventive treatments to help reduce your risk of recurrent kidney stones.
Overall, complications are rare, and as a minimally invasive treatment, recovery time is usually short. If you experience persistent pain, signs of infection (fever, chills) or any worsening symptoms, call your doctor or seek medical attention right away.
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