Treatment varies for kidney stones depending on your symptoms, health and the size and location of the stone.
Most kidney stones do not require invasive treatment.
For most small kidney stones, management includes:
- Drinking plenty of water (at least 2-3 litres a day) to flush out the stone
- Pain relief medications, if required
- Medication to assist in stone expulsion may be given. This medication relaxes the muscles in the ureter and will help you pass the kidney stone quickly and with less pain.
For larger stones, options for treatment include:
- Medication – To help break down the stones, the type of medication given will depend on the type of stone.
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) – A non-invasive procedure where ‘shock waves’ are used to break up stones into small pieces, which will then be passed out in the urine over the next few days.
For stones that are too large to pass out naturally, in an awkward position or causing significant pain, surgical treatment may be needed. This includes:
- Ureteroscopy – This procedure uses a long scope with a camera at the end which is inserted through the urethra into the urinary passage leading up to the stone. The stone is then broken into smaller pieces and fragments are removed.
- PCNL (percutaneous nephrolithomy) – A surgical treatment that involves making a small incision in the back (or loin) and inserting a special instrument into the kidney to locate and remove the stones.
- Open surgery – A large incision is made through which the stone is removed. This is seldom necessary nowadays unless the stone is very large and complex.