How are kidney stones formed?

  • The kidneys help in the removal of wastes from the body by filtering blood. Over time, crystalline deposits can accumulate and form kidney stones. When a stone travels down the ureter and blocks the flow of urine, the pressure in the kidney increases, resulting in pain (renal colic).

What are some of the risk factors?

  • Dehydration 
  • Diet high in salt and animal protein
  • Family history
  • Certain inherited conditions e.g. cystinuria
  • Certain gastrointestinal conditions e.g. Crohn’s disease or short gut syndrome 
  • Obesity

What are some of the symptoms of having kidney stones?

  • Kidney stones usually do not cause symptoms until the stone moves down into the ureter and causes obstruction.
  • The obstruction can cause severe pain and the pain typically starts from the side or back of the body and radiates to the groin. 
  • You should present to the emergency department or contact your doctor immediately if the pain is accompanied by fever or chills.

How are kidney stones diagnosed?

  • If kidney stones are suspected, blood, urine and imaging tests (X-ray, ultrasound or CT scans) will be organised by your doctor to diagnose the condition. 

How are kidney stones treated?

  • The treatment option depends on the size, location and the composition of the stone. Small stones < 5mm can usually pass without medical intervention. Your doctor may prescribe medication to relieve pain to allow time for the stone to pass.
  • For larger stones or if there is associated infection, excessive pain, or poor kidney function, urgent emergency surgery is required.
  • The options include:
    • Ureteroscopy (URS) and laser stone clearance 
      • A tiny telescope is used to get to the stone through the wee pipe under general anaesthetic and once the stone is found it is fragmented and dusked using laser. 
    • Ultrasound shock wave treatment (ESWL – Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy) 
      • High energy sound waves are directed and focused on the kidney stone from the outside of the body.  The shock waves created break the stones and the stone fragments subsequently pass out through the urine. 
    • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy  (PCNL) 
      • For larger stones, a slightly more involved procedure called PCNL maybe required. A small incision is made on the back of a patient and a telescope is inserted to break the stone before it is removed. 

What is a ureteric stent?

  • Your surgeon may insert a small rubber tube called an JJ stent before or after kidney stone procedures through the bladder into the kidney to keep the ureter open. This is to prevent sudden obstruction of the ureter from swelling or stone fragments after surgery which can cause obstruction to urine flow and severe pain. 
  • The stent itself can cause some discomfort, and occasionally flank pain, during urination, affect urinary frequency or cause blood to appear in the urine. 

Disclaimer: The information on this website is provided for your general information and is not a substitute for the specific advice of your treating doctor.