Distilled from substances in the urine, kidney stones are hard crystals of various sizes that form in the inner collection chamber at the center of the kidney. The most common type of stone incorporates calcium crystals with other minerals. Small stones may be visible only under a microscope and may pass painlessly from the body in urine. Larger stones may block the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder, causing intense pain and potential infection.

Your Best Choice for Kidney Stone Care

Take advantage of comprehensive kidney stone care at Parkland Medical Center. Our specialists, including urologists from the Lahey Institute of Urology at Parkland Medical Center, work with you to determine the best method for removing the stones. We also analyze components of your blood and urine to identify abnormalities that can be treated to prevent or decrease the possibility of stone formation in the future.

Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

You may be more likely to develop kidney stones if you:

  • Don’t drink enough fluids, on average, over many years
  • Take too much or too little calcium
  • Eat foods with high levels of animal protein
  • Have medical conditions, such as hyperactive thyroid, gout or Crohn’s disease, or other intestinal problems that cause excessive diarrhea
  • Have had gastric bypass or banding–type bariatric surgery

Kidney Stone Symptoms & Diagnosis

Unless they’re picked up on a scan during another procedure, you may not know you have kidney stones until one “passes” by falling into the ureter tube and blocking the passage of urine from a kidney. The pressure of urine trapped in the kidney creates intense pain in the mid–low back. The pain may move to the front of the lower abdomen or even into the scrotum in men. The pain, often coming in waves, may be severe enough to trigger nausea or vomiting. Blood may appear in the urine if the stone rubs along the urinary tract lining. If urine trapped behind the stone becomes infected, you may experience high fever and/or shaking chills.

If your physician suspects kidney stones, you may need a scan—such as an ultrasound, X–ray or CT–for an accurate diagnosis. While other imaging scans may be needed for specific situations, most stones can be seen on abdominal CT scans. Your Parkland care team will review the scans to help determine the best treatment options for your particular circumstances.

Learn more about kidney stones in our online Health Library.

Kidney Stone Treatments at Parkland Medical Center

Treatments differ depending on whether you are:

  • Experiencing an acute attack
  • Planning a scheduled elective procedure

You may be able to drink more fluids or avoid particular foods to reduce symptoms. Or you may be able to take medications to dissolve the stone. At Parkland Medical Center, our urologists collaborate with your primary care physician to assess your situation and recommend the best options for you.

If you experience a kidney stone blockage, your physician will prescribe pain medications. You also may receive medications that speed the elimination of the stone so you can pass it on your own at home.

Certain serious conditions—such as a urinary blockage from a kidney stone combined with a urinary infection–require immediate attention, which may include surgery. At Parkland Medical Center, options to treat kidney stones include:

  • Shock wave lithotripsy – Sound waves from outside the body precisely target the stone and break it into tiny pieces that pass out of the body in urine; typically, an outpatient procedure requiring no incision but a mild anesthetic
  • Ureteroscopy – A fiber–optic laser threaded through the ureter to fragment the stone; pieces are captured and removed; a no–incision procedure handled with general anesthesia
  • Stent – A long, flexible tube placed into the ureter to temporarily dislodge blockage, relieve pain, support drainage following surgery and allow urine to flow

Removing Stones & Preventing Recurrence

We take a thorough approach to managing kidney stones that benefits you immediately and in the future, focusing on the three goals of care:

  • Remove stones currently causing blockage—or that may in the future
  • Thoroughly analyze kidney function and dietary or lifestyle factors that may encourage stone formation
  • Take steps to prevent new stones from forming

If you have experienced multiple kidney stone episodes, our urology specialists will recommend additional tests to provide a personalized assessment of your situation.