Stones in the urinary tract or kidney
What are stones in the urinary tract or kidney?
Kidney stones (also called nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis) are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside the kidneys.
Diet, excess body weight, some medical conditions, and certain supplements and medications are among the many causes of kidney stones.
Kidney stones can affect any part of the urinary tract, from the kidneys to the bladder. These generally form when urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together.
Laboratory or imaging tests are often used to diagnose kidney or urinary tract stones.
Laboratory tests: Urine and blood tests help determine what type of kidney stones the patient has.
- Urinalysis: Urinalysis can show if the urine is bloody or has minerals in it that can form kidney stones. The presence of white blood cells and bacteria in the urine means that the patient may have a urinary tract infection.
- Blood tests: The blood test can show if the patient has high levels of certain minerals in the blood, which can lead to kidney stones.
Diagnostic images: images are another alternative that can be used to detect kidney stones. Diagnostic imaging can also show the problems that caused a kidney stone to form, such as a blockage in the urinary tract or a birth defect. To carry out this diagnostic methodology, abdominal radiography or computed tomography can be used.
How is it treated?
Treatment of kidney stones varies depending on the type of stone and its cause.
Most small kidney stones do not require invasive treatment. However, kidney stones that are too large to pass in the urine or that cause bleeding, kidney damage, or ongoing urinary tract infections may require more complex treatment. Some of them are:
- Surgery to remove very large kidney stones: A procedure called “percutaneous nephrolithotomy” involves the surgical removal of a kidney stone using small instruments and telescopes inserted through a small incision made in the back.
- Using an endoscope to remove stones: To remove a small stone lodged in the ureter or kidney, the doctor may insert a thin tube with a light and camera (ureteroscope) through the urethra and bladder until reach the ureter. Once the stone is located, special tools can catch the stone and break it into pieces that will be passed in the urine. Next, the doctor may place a small tube (stent) inside the ureter to improve swelling and promote healing.