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Kidney Stones (Condition)

What is a kidney stone?

A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms from crystallization of excreted substances in the urine. The stone may remain in the kidney or break loose and travel down the urinary tract. A small stone may pass all of the way out of the body, but a larger stone can get stuck in a ureter, the bladder, or the urethra. This may block the flow of urine and cause great pain.

A kidney stone may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a pearl, and some are as big as golf balls. They may be smooth or jagged, and are usually yellow or brown in color.

How are kidney stones diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for kidney stones may include the following:

  • intravenous pyelogram (IVP) – a series of x-rays of the kidney, ureters, and bladder with the injection of a contrast dye into the vein – to detect tumors, abnormalities, kidney stones, or any obstructions, and to assess renal blood flow.
  • computerized tomography (CT) scan – combines special x-ray equipment with sophisticated computers to produce multiple images or pictures of the inside of the body. These cross-sectional images of the area being studied can then be examined on a computer monitor or printed.
  • urinalysis – laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, infection, or excessive protein.
  • blood tests – laboratory examination of the blood to detect substances that might promote stone formation.
  • renal ultrasound – a non-invasive test in which a transducer is passed over the kidney producing sound waves which bounce off of the kidney, transmitting a picture of the organ on a video screen. The test is used to determine the size and shape of the kidney, and to detect a mass, kidney stone, cyst, or other obstruction in the kidney.
Treatment for kidney stones:

Specific treatment for kidney stones will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference