Medical Definition of PNL (percutaneous nephrolithotripsy)

  • Medical Author:
    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.

PNL (percutaneous nephrolithotripsy): A technique for removing large and/or dense stones and staghorn stones.

PNL is done via a port created by puncturing the kidney through the skin and enlarging the access port to 1 cm (about 3/8 inch) in diameter. There is no surgical incision.

PNL is done under anesthesia and real-time live x-ray control (fluoroscopy). Because x-rays are involved, a super-specialist in radiology (an interventional radiologist) may perform this part of the procedure.

The urologist (an endourologist, another super-specialist) then inserts instruments via this port into the kidney to break up the stone and remove most of the debris from the stone.

Reviewed on 9/7/2018

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