Kidney Stone Treatments

UC San Diego Health System Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center treats a variety of stone conditions, including large "staghorn" or struvite stones. We offer a variety of innovative, effective treatment options.

Treatment Options

Many kidney stones will pass on their own. However, if a stone is too large to pass on its own, or if it becomes stuck in the urinary tract, you may need more treatment. Depending on the type of kidney stone, your physician may use one or more of the following treatment options:

bullet Medical Expulsive Therapy

This alpha blocker medication therapy has shown significant improvement over simply waiting for a stone to pass, in terms of the time it takes to pass and overall stone passage rate. The medications Flomax (tamsulosin) and Uroxatral (alfuzosin) have shown the best results. The medications are taken over four weeks with the intent to spontaneously pass the kidney stone.

bullet Shock Wave Lithotripsy

This commonly-used procedure uses shock waves that pass easily through the body but are strong enough to break up a kidney stone. It is the least invasive surgical technique and is generally performed on an outpatient basis.

bullet Ureteroscopy

In this procedure, a very thin tube (ureteroscope) is passed into the urinary tract to the stone's location, where instruments can then be used to remove the stone or break it up for easier removal. Occasionally, you may need a small hollow tube (ureteral stent) placed in the ureter for a short time to keep it open and drain urine and any stone pieces. Ureteroscopy is often used for stones that have moved from the kidney to the ureter.

bullet Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy

This surgical technique is used for the largest types of stones. It generally requires a small (1 cm) incision in the side or back and use of a scope to remove the kidney stone. This procedure is performed on an inpatient basis.