Kidney Stones

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideKidney Stones: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Kidney Stones: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What is the treatment for kidney stones? How long does it take to pass a kidney stone?

Most kidney stones eventually pass through the urinary tract on their own within 48 hours, with ample fluid intake. Ketorolac (Toradol), an injectable anti-inflammatory drug, and narcotics may be used for pain control when over-the-counter pain control medications are not effective. Toradol, aspirin, and NSAIDs must be avoided if lithotripsy is to be done because of the increased risk of bleeding. Intravenous pain medications can be given when nausea and vomiting are present.

Although there are no proven home remedies to dissolve kidney stones, home treatment may be considered for patients who have a known history of kidney stones. Since most kidney stones, given time, will pass through the ureter to the bladder on their own, treatment is directed toward control of symptoms. Home care in this case includes the consumption of plenty of fluids. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be used as pain medication if there is no contraindication to its use. If further pain medication is needed, stronger narcotic pain medications may be recommended.

There are several factors that influence the ability to pass a stone. These include the size of the person, prior stone passage, prostate enlargement, pregnancy, and the size of the stone. A 4 mm stone has an 80% chance of passage while a 5 mm stone has a 20% chance. Stones larger than 9 mm to 10 mm rarely pass without specific treatment.

Some medications have been used to increase the passage rates of kidney stones. These include calcium channel blockers such as nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia, Afeditab, Nifediac) and alpha blockers such as tamsulosin (Flomax). These drugs may be prescribed to some people who have stones that do not rapidly pass through the urinary tract.

For kidney stones that do not pass on their own, a procedure called lithotripsy is often used. In this procedure, shock waves are used to break up a large stone into smaller pieces that can then pass through the urinary system.

Surgical techniques have also been developed to remove kidney stones when other treatment methods are not effective. This may be done through a small incision in the skin (percutaneous nephrolithotomy) or through an instrument known as an ureteroscope passed through the urethra and bladder up into the ureter.

Reviewed on 11/4/2015
References
REFERENCES:

"Kidney Stones in Adults." National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Sept. 2, 2010. <http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/Kudiseases/pubs/stonesadults/>

Shekarriz, Bijan. "Hyperoxaluria." Medscape.com. Apr. 5, 2013. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/444683-overview>.

Wolf Jr., J. Stuart. "Nephrolithiasis." Medscape.com. September 26, 2015. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/437096-overview>

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