Have more questions about kidney stones, your treatment plan and life after surgery? Check out the educational websites and informative glossary below.
The urinary bladder is a muscular organ to store urine in the pelvis, just above and behind the pubic bone. When empty, the bladder is about the size and shape of a pear. Urine is made in the kidneys, and travels down tubes called ureters to the bladder. The bladder stores urine, allowing urination to be infrequent and voluntary. The bladder is lined by layers of muscle tissue that stretch to accommodate urine. During urination, the bladder muscles contract, and two sphincters (valves) open to allow urine to flow out. Urine exits the bladder into the urethra, which carries urine out of the body.
A tube-like instrument to examine the inside of the body. Can be flexible or rigid.
The kidneys are organs most commonly located on either side of the spine. Most people have two kidneys, but not all people. Kidneys filter the blood and help balance water, salt and mineral levels in the blood. They also produce hormones that help regulate blood pressure and blood supply. Waste from the kidneys is carried out of the body in urine. Urine flows through tubes (ureters) to the bladder, where it is stored until a person is ready to urinate. The waste and urine then leave the bladder to exit the body through a tube called the urethra.
Medical Expulsive Therapy (MET)
If your stone is likely to pass with urine, your doctor may prescribe drugs (commonly referred to as alpha blockers) to help you pass the stone faster and more often. During MET you should see your doctor regularly – how often depends on their recommendation. The doctor needs to check if the stone keeps moving and if your kidneys continue to function well.
A surgically placed tube that is sometimes used to unblock your kidney while passing a stone or after a Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy procedure to drain urine and stone pieces from the kidney into a collection bag.
Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (sometimes called Percutaneous Lithotripsy)
Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL) is the best treatment for large stones in the kidney. General anesthesia is needed to do a PCNL. PCNL involves making a half-inch incision (cut) in the back or side, just large enough to allow a rigid telescope (nephroscope) to be passed into the hollow center part of the kidney where the stone is located. An instrument passed through the nephroscope breaks up the stone and suctions out the pieces. The ability to suction pieces makes PCNL the best treatment choice for large stones.
Shock Wave Lithotripsy (SWL) is used to treat stones in the kidney and ureter. Shock waves are focused on the stone using X-rays or ultrasound to pinpoint the stone. Repeated firing of shock waves on the stone usually causes the stone to break into small pieces. These smaller pieces of stones pass out in the urine over a few weeks.
The tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Most patients have two kidneys and two ureters, but not all patients.
A stent is a flexible hollow tube placed inside the ureter. It allows urine to drain around a stone and helps the ureter heal after surgery. It is entirely inside your body and is not visible from the outside.
A small flexible or rigid device used to directly see and treat stones. The ureteroscope device, which provides a video image and has small “working” channels, is inserted into the bladder and up the ureter until the stone is encountered. The stone can then either be broken up with a laser fiber or pulled out using small basket-like devices that are inserted via the working channels of the scope.
Ureteroscopy is used to treat stones in the kidney and ureter. URS involves passing a very small telescope, called a ureteroscope, into the bladder and then up to the stone in the ureter and/or kidney. The ureteroscope lets the urologist see the stone without making an incision (cuts). Anesthesia keeps you comfortable during the URS procedure. Once the urologist sees the stone with the ureteroscope, a small, basket-like device grabs smaller stones and removes them. If a stone is too large to remove in one piece, it can be broken into smaller pieces with a laser or other stone-breaking tools.
The passageway, starting at the bladder, that carries urnie our of the body.