Kidney stones are actually mineral crystals formed that are usually a combination of calcium and phosphates. The size of a kidney stone ranges from the size of a sugar crystal to a ping pong ball. While some kidney stones pass out of the body with urine, others can block the kidney, ureter or urethra and become painful.
In addition to being painful, a kidney stone can cause irreversible damage to your kidneys. However, if a kidney stone is left untreated, it can cause the kidney to atrophy and may damage it permanently as well. Kidney stones that are related to an infection can lead to chronic urinary tract infections and damage the kidney through scarring and inflammation. This could eventually lead to kidney failure.
Not all kidney stones need to be treated with surgery. Of the kidney stone that is very small, your doctor may prescribe plenty of water and medication to treat the pain. With plenty of water, you should be able to pass the stone in your urine. When stones are not supposed to pass spontaneously depending on their size or location as advised by treating doctor, you need to be hospitalized for treatment.
Various treatment modalities for stones are:
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)
X-rays or ultrasound is used to determine the location of the kidney stone. Externally, Shock waves are then passed through the kidney focussing the stone, to break it into smaller pieces. These can then be passed out of the body through urine.
This is also called retrograde intrarenal surgery. A flexible ureteroscope is passed through the urethra and bladder into the ureter and then in the kidney. Laser energy can only be used with it to break the stone into smaller pieces.
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL)
This surgery is performed under general or Spinal anaesthesia. It involves a sub-centimetre incision being made in the back and a nephroscope passed into the kidney through it. Laser or pneumatic energy is then used to break up the stone into smaller pieces and pull them out.
It is an old way of treatment and is rarely used for removing stones nowadays