Americans have a one-in-10 chance of developing a kidney stone in their lifetime. This makes kidney stones one of the most common medical problems someone can have. Most kidney stones are composed chiefly of calcium. Dehydration is the most common cause of kidney stones.
Symptoms include pain in the flank (below the ribcage on the right or left side), nausea and blood in the urine. In severe cases, fever and infection may develop which can become life threatening. Diagnosis is usually confirmed with a CT scan although the more "old-fashioned" IVP may be obtained on occasion as well.
More than 80 percent of kidney stones pass on their own. The rest of the stones are treated in a variety of ways including shock-wave lithotripsy (ESWL) or removal of the stone with a small scope passed into the urinary tract. When working through a scope, the urologist may capture the stone with a basket or break the stone into small fragments using a laser. None of the above treatments require any incisions.
Placement of a urinary stent may be required during the treatment of a kidney stone. This is a small caliber internal drainage tube that is positioned between the kidney and the bladder. A stent bypasses the obstruction related to the stone and allows urine to drain from the kidney. This drainage relieves the pain patients experience with a kidney stone.
A very small percentage of patients have an abnormal metabolism that contributes to stone formation. In some instances, such patients can be treated with medication to lower their risk of future stones. The urologist may recommend further metabolic testing in select cases to identify patients in need of such treatment.
If you have a history of gout, you may have stones that are composed of uric acid. This is the one type of kidney stone that can be dissolved over time by taking medication. Calcium stones cannot be dissolved with medication.
Copyright (C) 2016 Steven A. Johnson, M.D., P.A.
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