When you’re writhing in agony from the pain caused by kidney stones, there’s only one thing on your mind and that’s to get treatment right away. Pain meds might help in reducing the pain to some degree, but the relief won’t last. What you’ll need is to see your doctor.
When you get to the doctor or the emergency room if you can no longer stand the pain, you’ll first undergo a short physical exam to determine the location of the pain.
If the doctor suspects kidney stones, you’ll need to undergo further laboratory tests, an x-ray, or a ct-scan to determine the presence, size, and location of the stones.
It’s important to understand that whenever possible, doctors will attempt to encourage your body to rid the stones as naturally as possible. You’ll be given intra-venous fluids for rehydration and pain meds to help you cope with the pain.
If the doctors determine that the stones are too large to pass through the urinary pathway, they’ll break the stones down using a non-invasive procedure called lithotripsy. During this procedure a machine that produces shock waves will be used to break down the stones into smaller pieces so the body can get rid of them naturally. Depending on the size of the stones, you might need to undergo the procedure several times. The procedure will be painful but doctors will provide pain medications.
Larger stones may require surgery. There are three basic types: Ureteroscopy, Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy or PCNL for short, and open surgery.
During a Ureteroscopy, a thin wire attached to an instrument will be inserted into the ureter (urine passageway) and guided to the location of the stones. The doctor will then attempt to remove the stone or break it down into smaller pieces. You’ll be under a general anesthetic during this time so you won’t feel anything.
If the doctor recommends Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL), the doctor will create a small incision in your back and insert an instrument called a nephroscope. The instrument will allow the doctor to remove the stone directly from the kidney or break it down using laser energy. In this procedure, you’ll also be under general anesthesia.
In the event that the above procedures cannot be recommended due to the size of the stones, the doctors will likely recommend open surgery instead. These days, open surgery is only used as a last resort, so only about 1% of kidney stone cases will need to undergo such procedure.
In an open surgery, the doctor will create an incision on your back to allow access to the affected kidney. The kidney is then opened to expose the stone so that it can be removed. If open surgery is required, you’ll undergo this procedure under general anesthesia.
Keep in mind that if you ever need to undergo any procedure under a general anesthetic, you’ll also need to avoid operating any form of machinery or driving for at least 48 hours after the procedure.
Majority of treatments for kidney stones are successful, but you’ll need to remember that it is possible for stones to develop once again. To prevent this from happening, you’ll need to discuss the methods with your doctor.