Depending on where they are located and their size, kidney stones can be treated by a number of different methods.
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)
This is the most common method of dealing with small kidney stones. The kidney stone is located using X-ray imaging or ultrasound scanning. While you are lying down, a machine called a lithotriptor sends targeted shock waves to break up the kidney stone into pieces small enough to be passed naturally. Sometimes you will experience pain as the stone fragments pass. This procedure is usually performed using standard pain killing tablets as a daycase, without the need for a general anaesthetic.
Ureteroscopy and fragmentation of the stone using a laser
If a stone is stuck in the ureter, a narrow instrument called a ureteroscope can be passed up through the bladder and into the ureter. The stone is captured and removed, or broken up using a holmium laser. For smaller stones in the kidney that have not responded to ESWL a small flexible ureteroscope can be used, and a laser passed up this to break the stone into small pieces. These procedures are usually done under a general anaesthetic, and often can be done as a daycase.
Watch a short video of ureteroscopy and laser stone fragmentation.
Percutaneous stone extraction from the kidney (PCNL)
Large stones may need to be surgically removed from the kidney. The surgeon makes a small cut in your back and uses a telescopic instrument called a nephroscope to pull the stone out or break it up with shock waves or an ultrasound machine. This procedure is done under a general anaesthetic, and you will usually need to be in hospital for a minimum of two nights after the operation.
Watch a short video of the steps involved in the PCNL procedure.