Kidney Stones Treatment in Santa Ana, California
Our urologists in Orange County are professionals who have gained extensive knowledge and expertise in the field of urology through years of education, training, and practical experience. They are well-versed in the latest techniques and procedures for diagnosing and treating urological conditions, particularly kidney stones.
What is a Kidney Stone?
Kidney stones are also known as calculi (plural), or calculus (singular). When it is in the kidney, it is a renal calculus. The tube draining the kidney to the bladder is the ureter, and a stone in the ureter is a ureteral calculus. It is estimated that 20% of us will have a kidney stone in our lifetime. Of those who get a stone, 50% will reoccur.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones can run in families, but there are environmental factors for many patients.
Kidney stones are small, hard deposits of minerals and salts that form in the kidneys. Kidney Stones are caused by several factors, including:
- Diet (too much oxalate, too much protein, or rarely too much calcium)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Urinary tract infections
- Vitamin C (over 2 grams per day)
- Calcium supplements if taken without food or if used excessively
Medical conditions such as gout, inflammatory bowel disease, and urinary tract infections can also increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Some medications, such as diuretics, calcium supplements, and antacids containing calcium, can also contribute to their formation.
How are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?
To accurately diagnose kidney stones, these urologists utilize the most advanced technology available, including imaging tests such as CT scans, ultrasound, and X-rays. These tools enable them to visualize the stones and determine their size, location, and composition. Our urologists can determine the most appropriate treatment plan for each patient.
Treatment of Kidney Stones
Small Kidney Stone Treatment
For small kidney stones, invasive treatments may not be needed. With a urologists direction, you may be able to pass the stones by doing the following:
- Drinking 2 to 3 quarts (which is the size a milk container you find in the grocery store) of water per day helps thin your urine and could prevent kidney stones from forming. If your doctor hasn’t instructed to do other wise, try to drink enough fluids, preferably water, to make your urine clear or nearly clear urine.
- Passing a small stone can cause pain. Your doctor will likely prescribe over-the-counter pain relievers to help with this discomfort.
- Your doctor may prescribe medication to help you pass the kidney stones. These medications are known as alpha blockers, and they relax the muscles in your ureter.
Large Kidney Stone Treatment
Sound wave technology to break up stones: Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy(ESWL) uses sound waves to create very powerful vibrations (shock waves) that break down stones into small pieces, which allows those broken pieces to pass much easier. The procedure typically lasts between 45 to 60 minutes and can cause some pain, but a provider administers a light sedation.
Surgery: When the kidney stones are very large, your urologist will suggest surgery. The name of the procedure is percutaneous nephrolithotomy (pronounced as nef-row-lih-THOT-uh-me) and urologists perform this procedure to remove the kidney stones.
Using a scope: A scope is a minimally invasive option that can break up or remove a kidney stone. To remove those smaller stones, your urologist may pass a thin lighted tube (ureteroscope) that has a camera that is passed through your urethra and bladder to your ureter. From there, the kidney stones is broken up or removed, and a stent is placed to help with swelling and healing.
Non-medical treatment options for most patients: non invasive, minimally invasive, and surgical procedures for kidney stone treatment and kidney stone removal.
In general, there are five options available to treat all urinary tract stones. Kidney stone size and location is an important factor in deciding which treatment is best for you.
1. Do nothing:
This is best saved for very small stones that could pass easily, or for very large asymptomatic stones in older patients. However, if the stone is causing pain, blockage or infections, it should be treated.
2. Lithotripsy (shock wave lithotripsy, SWL, ESWL):
It is the easiest procedure. The patient lies on a table or in a tub and shock waves are focused on the stone. It is non-invasive, but if the stone is over 1 cm, you will likely need a cystoscopy and stent to help the pieces pass. Patients can go home the same day.
Lithotripsy is only 60 – 85% effective for making your kidney or ureter stone free in a single treatment (depending on stone size and location). The recurrence rate is quite high. 42% of patients will have another stone within two years, probably from small fragments left behind that grow into new stones.
3. Endoscopic treatment (ureteroscopy, with or without laser stone fragmentation):
A urologist can look inside the bladder and all the way up to the kidney with a small scope and either remove the stone or break it up with a laser and remove the pieces. It is minimally invasive. There is no incision as the instruments go through the patient’s existing “plumbing.” Patients can go home the same day. In experienced hands, the stone free rate is 90-95% for stones in the ureter. The stone free rate is 80-90% for stones in the kidney depending on size and location.
4. Percutaneous removal (also called percutaneous nephrolithotomy, PCNL):
Very few urologists are proficient at this technique, which is why many urologists will not offer it as an option for their patients. PCNL is the treatment of choice for stones over 15 – 20 mm (1.5 to 2 cm). OC Urology routinely uses this technique for patients with large stones or stones refractory to other procedures.
While it is minimally invasive, it requires a one inch incision in the back. A channel is made from the skin straight into the kidney. It is invasive, but still considered minimally-invasive. Patients typically spend one night in the hospital (two for older patients). The stone free rate is 90 – 95% for these very large stones that otherwise would require multiple procedures to completely clear.
Click Here to see a video of how large stones are broken and removed during PCNL
5. Open surgery:
It is extremely rare to need a large incision to remove a stone from the urinary tract. The choice of treatment will depend on the size and location of the stone. In addition, the more invasive the procedure, the higher the success rate.
Kidney Stone Prevention
Everyone in the emergency room with a stone loudly proclaims “I will do anything to avoid another stone.” In reality, very few people will stay on a prophylactic treatment program for many years. Once they feel better, they stop therapy until the next painful stone. The average person who passes a small stone without the need for a procedure (whether it is his first stone or it has been many years since the previous stone) will not benefit much from specific testing and treatment. They are also unlikely to stay on any treatment recommended.
Kidney stone prevention is most important for patients with recurrent stones, multiple stones at one time or patients with very large or difficult to treat stones. Testing includes a 24-hour urine collection, blood testing and chemical analysis of the stone if possible. The possible treatments include diet changes (usually low oxalate diet or decreasing protein), citrate or magnesium supplementation and occasionally medication.
The information on this site is solely for purposes of general patient education and may not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical care. Consult your own physician for evaluation and treatment of your specific condition.
Schedule a Kidney Stone Consultation
If you are experiencing symptoms of kidney stones or have been diagnosed with kidney stones, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with our expert urologists. Contact our urology clinic in Santa Ana today to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards effective diagnosis and treatment of your kidney stones.