Kidney stones can start in your kidney, but move to your ureter or bladder over time. Sometimes they come out on their own, leaving your body as you pee. Other times, they can be too big to pass. Plus, new stones can develop after the older ones have made their exit.
At Cleveland Clinic, we are there to help you get lasting relief. We excel in treating people who have kidney stones that keep coming back (recurrent) and offer every available treatment. You’ll be treated by trusted urologists who use research-based guidelines to diagnose and treat kidney stones. Our team is there to give you the best care with exceptional results.
Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Kidney Stone Care?
We take time to get to know you and your medical history. This information helps us find the right treatment options to match your needs. We are often able to stop or slow down the growth of chronic kidney stones with medications.
We offer advanced options, including laser lithotripsy, which breaks up smaller stones into tiny pieces. We use percutaneous nephrolithotomy (a procedure that’s done through your skin) to remove large stones through a tiny incision. Our experience performing a high volume of procedures leads to more successful treatments, even for large or recurring stones.
We work alongside other Cleveland Clinic specialists when needed to give you the best possible care. We collaborate with endocrinologists for stones caused by hormone imbalance. And, we partner with kidney specialists (nephrologists) if chronic stones affect the way your kidney works. Meet our team.
Our comprehensive approach lowers the likelihood that your kidney stones will become chronic. When appropriate, we do extra blood and urine tests (metabolic testing) to assess your risk. This information helps us tailor therapies that prevent future stones.
Some services, including second opinions, are conveniently available via virtual visits. We welcome the opportunity to look over your case and provide expert recommendations.
Types of Kidney Stone Testing at Cleveland Clinic
Testing helps us learn a lot about your kidney stone. We do comprehensive testing to see where the kidney stone is located, the type and how severe it is. Your care may include:
These tests may include:
- Ultrasound: This test is a quick, convenient way to look at a kidney stone’s size, shape and location.
- CT scan: You may need a CT scan if we are considering a procedure and need more information to plan it.
- X-ray: On rare occasions, this test is necessary to make sure the stone will be easy to pinpoint during a procedure.
Metabolic testing for chronic kidney stones
Metabolic testing is for people who have passed more than one kidney stone or had difficult-to-treat stones. It helps us measure levels of substances like calcium that can lead to future stones. The test includes a 24-hour urine sample, a special urinalysis involving all the urine you pass in 24 hours. Metabolic testing also uses blood tests to measure levels of certain substances — such as excess calcium or hormones — that can cause kidney stones.
Who Treat Kidney Stones
Kidney Stone Treatment at Cleveland Clinic
Some kidney stones pass on their own when you pee, and treatment isn’t needed. If you do need treatment, care often includes medications that relax muscles near the ureter, making stones easier to pass. The ureter is a tube connecting your kidney to your bladder and it’s a common place for stones to get stuck. We may also prescribe medications to relieve pain.
If the stone isn’t likely to pass naturally, you may need a procedure. We offer:
- Laser lithotripsy: This treatment is for smaller kidney stones. We place a tiny tube (scope) in your urinary tract. A laser at the tip breaks up the stones and captures them in a tiny basket so we can remove them.
- Shock wave lithotripsy: We use this option for small stones. We use general anesthesia to put you to sleep. Then, a machine delivers a burst of sound waves that break up the stones. After the procedure, the pieces leave your body with your pee.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: You may need this procedure if the stones are too large for laser or shock wave lithotripsy. We make an incision in your back to get to the stones and remove them using a special scope.
- Reconstructive surgery: In rare cases, stones block or damage the connection between your kidney and the tube connecting it to your bladder. After removing the stone, we repair the tissue using robotic surgery or special ureteroscopic techniques.
Chronic Kidney Stone Prevention
If you’re worried about your kidney stones coming back again in the future, we can give you personalized recommendations to reduce the chance you’ll get them again. We may recommend following a low-salt diet and drinking plenty of water, including one glass with fresh squeezed lime, lemon or orange juice every day.
Your provider may also suggest that you limit foods containing oxalate, a substance found in spinach, potatoes and nuts. You may also need to limit salty foods.
Taking the Next Step
Whether this is your first kidney stone or you’ve had them before, our team of providers is ready to help. We’ll guide you through the treatment process — finding the right option for you. If you have stones that keep coming back, we’ll work with you on changes that can help prevent them over the long run. Kidney stones can be a painful experience. But with the help of an expert team, you can find relief.
Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s kidney stone experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.
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