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How to avoid complications from kidney stone procedures

What your doctor won’t tell you about this ‘simple’ procedure

If you’ve ever had a kidney stone attack, I don’t have to tell you how painful it can be.

Usually a stone will pass on its own. But if it doesn’t, and if you’re in pain, that’s when you need to get to your doctor.

And if your doctor says that surgery is the only option, there are some things you need to know before he makes that incision, even if it’s only a tiny one.

Because where you get that treatment can mean the difference between getting better, or ending up back in the hospital again.

An ancient pain

Kidney stones have been causing agony forever — since the beginning of civilization, in fact.

Scientists have even found a kidney stone that is said to be from 4900 B.C. And surgeons have been inventing ways to remove them since 200 B.C.

You would think since doctors have been “practicing” removing kidney stones for so long, it would be a slam dunk by now. They’ve certainly had enough time to learn how to do it right!

But some studies are showing a frightening rise in complications with one of the ways kidney stones are treated.

If your kidney stone is large or because of its location, your doctor may tell you that you need to have a procedure called percutaneous nephrolithotomy, or, PCNL.

That’s when surgeons go through your back with a small incision to reach the stone.

The researchers found that not only did PCNL surgery have the highest rate of complications, but the highest cost to treat those complications – around $47,000!

They also found that the complications from PCNL have actually gone up in recent years.

Most alarming is the fact that cases of sepsis– a blood infection – after this surgery have DOUBLED.

So if your doctor is on the fence about PCNL, don’t do it! Ask him about these other methods for treating kidney stones, ones the researchers say have a lower risk of problems.

They’re called shock wave lithotripsy and ureteroscopy.

The first way uses sound waves from outside the body that “hit” the stone and break it into tiny pieces. Unlike PCNL, researchers found that method was the least likely to cause complications.

The second, ureteroscopy, involves the insertion of an instrument up your urethra to either break up the stone or push it back into the kidney. That technique had “slightly” more ER visits due to complications.

It’s important to know that you’re not totally out of the woods for at least 30 days, regardless of the method your doctor uses. (That’s much longer than originally thought.)

But probably the most important thing to come out of this research is that where you go to have your kidney stones treated can make a huge difference.

Hospitals that did “high volumes” of treatments and surgeries were found to be “much less” likely to see you back again with complications. So when you’re considering options, ask the patient advocate or your doctor how often the procedure is done there.

But before you choose between getting shock waves, holes put in your back or having instruments stuck in your private parts, there are ways to avoid getting a kidney stone in the first place.

And despite what some health nuts keep preaching, there can be too much of a good thing where certain kinds of vegetables are concerned.

If you’re prone to one type of stone called calcium oxalate, downing a daily green drink can add to your problem.

That’s because spinach, kale and other greens are high in oxalates. And that can turn a healthy habit into a painful stone attack.

But one method shines above all others in keeping stones away.

It’s as simple as can be. You don’t have to buy a “bullet” or any other kind of fancy blender either.

It’s water. That’s right, drinking enough plain, old water is the single best prevention – and treatment – for kidney stones.

And finding water to drink is a lot easier to do now then it was in 200 BC!

“Complications from kidney stone treatments are common and costly” April 28, 2014, Duke Medicine News,

“Complications from kidney stone surgery rising, study finds” HealthDay,

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