What is the Best Treatment for Kidney Stones?

Treatment for kidney stones varies, depending on the type of stone and the cause.

Treatment for small stones with minimal symptoms
Most kidney stones won't require invasive treatment. You may be able to pass a small stone by:
- Drinking water. Drinking as much as 2 to 3 quarts (1.9 to 2.8 liters) a day may help flush out your urinary system.

- Pain relievers. Passing a small stone can cause some discomfort. To relieve mild pain, your doctor may recommend pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).

Treatment for larger stones and those that cause symptoms
Kidney stones that can't be treated with conservative measures either because they're too large to pass on their own or because they cause bleeding, kidney damage or ongoing urinary tract infections may require more invasive treatment.
Procedures include:

- Using sound waves to break up stones. A procedure called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy uses sound waves to create strong vibrations called shock waves that break the stones into tiny pieces that are then passed in your urine. The procedure creates a loud noise and can cause moderate pain, so you may be under sedation or light anesthesia to make you comfortable. The specifics of your procedure may vary depending on the type of equipment your doctor uses.

- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy can cause blood in the urine, bruising on the back or abdomen, bleeding around the kidney and other adjacent organs, and discomfort as the stone fragments pass through the urinary tract.

- Surgery to remove very large stones in the kidney. A procedure called percutaneous nephrolithotomy involves surgically removing a kidney stone through a small incision in your back. This surgery may be recommended if extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy has been unsuccessful or if your stone is very large.

- Using a scope to remove stones. To remove a stone in your ureter or kidney, your doctor may pass a thin lighted tube (ureteroscope) equipped with a camera through your urethra and bladder to your ureter. Your doctor maneuvers the ureteroscope to the stone. Once the stone is located, special tools can snare the stone or break it into pieces that will pass in your urine.

- Parathyroid gland surgery. Some calcium stones are caused by overactive parathyroid glands, which are located on the four corners of your thyroid gland, just below your Adam's apple. When these glands produce too much parathyroid hormone, your body's level of calcium can become too high, resulting in excessive excretion of calcium in your urine. This is sometimes caused by a small benign tumor in one of your four parathyroid glands. A surgeon can remove the tumor or the parathyroid glands.