What is percutaneous nephrolithotomy?

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Percutaneous nephrolithotomy or nephrolithotripsy: Overview

This procedure is used to remove kidney stones.

The doctor makes a small incision in your back. The doctor then puts a hollow tube into your kidney and a probe through the tube.

  • In nephrolithotomy, the doctor removes the stone through the tube.
  • In nephrolithotripsy, the doctor breaks the stone up and then removes the fragments of the stone through the tube.

You need either general anesthesia or regional or spinal anesthesia during this procedure. A small tube (catheter) may be inserted into the kidney to drain urine until the kidney heals.

How well does a percutaneous nephrolithotomy or nephrolithotripsy work?

These procedures work for most people with stones in the kidney or ureter.

What are the risks of a percutaneous nephrolithotomy or nephrolithotripsy?

Risks of this procedure include:

  • Bleeding.
  • Holes (perforation) in the kidney. They usually heal without further treatment.
  • Injury to other abdominal organs, such as the bladder or colon.
  • Damage that affects normal kidney function.

What can you expect as you recover from a percutaneous nephrolithotomy or nephrolithotripsy?

You will be in the hospital for at least 2 to 3 days. Most people are able to return to work within a few weeks.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy

Left and right kidneys in person's back, with detail inside kidney showing kidney stone broken into pieces and being removed through tube.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy and nephrolithotripsy are procedures in which a small incision is made in a person's back to remove kidney stones. In both cases, the doctor puts a tube into the kidney and a scope through the tube. In nephrolithotomy, the doctor removes a stone through the tube. In nephrolithotripsy, the stone is broken up and the fragments of the stone are removed through the tube.

Why is a percutaneous nephrolithotomy or nephrolithotripsy done?

This procedure may be used to treat kidney stones that are:

  • Larger than 2 cm (0.8 in.) in diameter.
  • Large and caused by an infection (staghorn calculi).
  • Blocking the flow of urine out of the kidney.
  • Not broken up by extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL).

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