Penn urologists treat kidney stones, using surgery or lithotripsy, a non-surgical alternative that uses ultrasonic waves to pulverize the stones, making them easier to pass out of your body in urine. 

Hardened mineral deposits that form in the kidney may become lodged in the kidneys or in the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder (ureter), causing severe pain and blocking the flow of urine. Learn more about kidney stone prevention and your unique metabolic risk factors for developing stones. 

How are Kidney Stones Treated?

The majority of kidney stones will pass naturally without the need for surgery. However, it is important that you discuss your specific needs with your urologist to be sure you are an appropriate candidate to pass stones naturally. 

In certain situations, it may be necessary to surgically remove your kidney stone. 

At Penn Medicine, we use the latest in minimally invasive technology to make removal as effective as possible, while simultaneously reducing recovery time. You can learn more about our range of minimally invasive techniques below.

What Non-Surgical and Surgical Options Are Available to Treat My Kidney Stones?

There are three options to remove kidney stones, and you and your urologist will work together to determine which of the following is right for you:

  • Shockwave lithotripsy uses sound waves to break the kidney stone into dust. The tiny pieces of stone can then pass naturally out of your body in your urine. While this method is the least invasive – it requires no incision – it is also the least effective.
  • Ureteroscopy with laser lithotripsy is the most common procedure performed to remove kidney stones, and is very effective at breaking up stones at all locations in the urinary tract, provided they are not too large or numerous. The procedure also does not require incisions, however, a small camera and scope is needed to direct a laser through your urinary system — urethra, bladder, ureter, and kidney — to the stone. The laser is then used to break the stone into small fragments, which are either removed with a tiny basket or allowed to pass naturally out of the body through your urine.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is generally used only for very large kidney stones and is effective at removing even the largest branching staghorn stones. During the procedure, a small incision is made in your flank or back, through which a camera and scope are placed directly into the kidney. A small ultrasound device is then used to fragment the stone and the fragments removed with suction.

What Treatment Option is Right for Me to Remove My Kidney Stone?

The treatment option that is right for you will depend on several factors, including the number of kidney stones, the location of the kidney stones and the size of the kidney stones. It will also depend on if your kidney stones are causing pain or other symptoms. Your medical conditions and, most importantly, your personal preferences will also weigh heavily in the decision.

What is Recovery Like After My Kidney Stone is Removed?

Recovery after the surgical treatment of kidney stones is typically short, and often, patients are back to work or to their normal activities the day after surgery. Your urologist can answer any specific questions you have about recovery.

What Will Follow-up Care Be Like After My Kidney Stone is Removed?

You will visit your urologist’s office three to seven days after your surgical procedure. This is an opportunity for you to ask questions, for your urologist to discuss any findings or results from surgery, and also to remove any drains or tubes, such as a ureteral stent. A ureteral stent is a small plastic tube inserted in your urinary system to help it heal after surgery. Typically, removal is quick and painless.

In This Section

Urinary Stone Disease Team

Browse our list of Penn Medicine physicians that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of urinary stone disease.

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