Advances in Treating Kidney Stones

In the past, patients with kidney stones too large to pass faced a major surgery to remove the stones. Even when stones were smaller, passing kidney stones was painful and not always possible.

Urologists at GW use several minimally invasive techniques when stones are large or the patient cannot pass them easily.

Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL) uses high-frequency ultrasound delivered from outside the body to smash the stones into a passable dust-like material. ESWL is a major advance in the ability to deal with kidney stones.

Even if smashed, larger stones create too much debris to pass through the ureter. In this case, urologic surgeons at GW Hospital use a procedure called percutaneous nephrostolithotomy to access the kidneys with endoscopic instruments inserted through the patient’s back. The stones are then broken up with a laser or other tools and removed.

Open surgery for kidney stones is almost obsolete. Now, there are a lot of different ways to deal with stones.