Kidney Stones Treatment in the Central Coast of California

What Are Kidney Stones?

When high levels of minerals and salt exist in the kidneys, they can form a clump of matter known as a kidney stone. These stones may stay inside of the kidney, where they will not cause any further harm.

The real problem begins when these kidney stones enter the ureter and block urine from traveling through the ureter to the bladder. This blockage caused by the kidney stone becomes very painful, and can require surgery if they do not pass on their own.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of kidney stones, don’t wait to see a specialist. For patients in the Central Coast of California, the board-certified urologists with Urology Associates of the Central Coast are here to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for kidney stones treatment in San Luis Obispo, Templeton, Pismo Beach, Santa Maria, or Lompoc.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Other than pain, patients with kidney stones often experience other symptoms such as:

  • Persistent need to urinate
  • Cloudy or discolored urine, usually pink, red, or brown in color
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Fever or chills, typically occurs when there is an infection present
  • Pain radiating from the lower abdomen and groin, or in the back below the ribs
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Painful urination

Types of Kidney Stones

Not all kidney stones are the same. The exact type of kidney stone will determine the course of action used to treat the patient’s kidney stones. These types of kidney stones include:

  • Calcium stones (most common)
  • Uric acid stones
  • Struvite stones
  • Cystine stones

Treatment for Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are a common urological condition that can cause severe pain. In some cases, surgical treatment may be necessary to remove or break up the stones. Our providers can help you determine which treatment is best for you. 

Medical Expulsive Therapy (MET)

 MET involves the use of medications to help pass small kidney stone.  This treatment may include alpha-blockers (e.g. Flomax) to relax the ureter, making it easier for the stone to pass. MET is most effective for small stones in the distal ureter, but may often be used by your surgeon to increase the likelihood that a stone passes prior to avoid needing surgery.   

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

ESWL is a non-invasive procedure that uses shock waves to break kidney stones into smaller fragments.  The small pieces can then be passed through urine. ESWL best suited for stones less than 2cm in size, located in the kidney or upper (proximal) ureter. 

Ureteroscopy with Laser Lithotripsy

Ureteroscopy involves inserting a thin, flexible camera scope through the urethra and into the ureter to access the stone.  Laser lithotripsy uses laser energy to break the stone into smaller pieces.  The fragments are either removed with a small instrument (stone basket) or allowed to pass after the procedure. Ureteroscopy is effective for treating stones located in the ureter or within the kidney.  

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL)

PCNL is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used for large or complex kidney stones. It involves making a small incision in the back and using a nephroscope to access and remove or fragment the stone.  PCNL commonly involves placement of a nephrostomy tube prior to surgery with an interventional radiologist. As PCNL is more invasive than ESWL or ureteroscopy, it is typically reserved for stones larger than 2cm. 

Ureteral Stents and Stent-Related Symptoms

In some cases, a ureteral stent may be placed to unblock the kidney or to prevent complications. Stents are small, flexible tubes that are placed through the bladder during cystoscopy. Stents prevent obstruction of the ureter by facilitating drainage of urine from the kidney to the bladder. Patients may experience the following stent-related symptoms: 

  • Dysuria: Stents can cause discomfort or a burning sensation during urination. This is usually temporary and improves after stent removal.
  • Hematuria: Seeing blood in the urine is common with stents, but excessive bleeding or blood clots should be reported to your healthcare provider. 

Ureteral stents are temporary, and must be removed in a timely fashion, usually within 1 month after placement.  Please be sure to follow up with your urologist after a stent is placed so that plans can be made for timely removal.  Removal is usually done in the clinic using a small string or a camera with grasper instrument to remove it from the bladder.

Reasons to go seek immediate medical attention in the Emergency room:

  • Severe Pain: If you have intense, unrelenting pain in the back or lower abdomen that doesn’t improve with pain medications 
  • Fever and Chills: These may indicate infection, which can be a serious or rarely, life threatening complication of kidney stones
  • Inability to Pass Urine: If you are unable to urinate despite feeling the urge, it may be due to a stone blocking the urinary tract.
  • Persistent Nausea and Vomiting: This can lead to dehydration. 

Schedule a Kidney Stones Consultation

If you are struggling with pain or an infection caused by kidney stones, please schedule an appointment with a board-certified urologist at Urology Associates of the Central Coast to discuss your treatment options. We have urology clinics in San Luis Obispo, Templeton, Pismo Beach, Santa Maria, and Lompoc.