A CT scan takes a picture of your kidneys or bladder. This scan also shows if urine flow is blocked.
Providing effective treatment for the prevention of kidney stones
Your kidneys make urine. Substances within your urine routinely form small crystals. Most of the time the crystals leave your body when you urinate. But if crystals attach to your kidneys, they can grow into kidney stones. Kidney stones can be painful. If left untreated, they can lead to urinary tract infections, kidney infections and kidney failure.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Diagnosing kidney stones
Small kidney stones that remain in your kidneys may cause no symptoms.
If a kidney stone moves from your kidney toward your bladder, it can cause a blockage. If this happens, you may experience:
Blood in your urine
Burning during urination
Nausea and vomiting
Diagnosing kidney stones
Your doctor will use imaging tests to diagnose kidney stones. These include:
A KUB X-ray helps to confirm the presence of stones. The X-ray also tracks the progress of stones.
An ultrasound provides a detailed picture of your kidneys and bladder. It’s the most common test used to diagnose kidney stones.
A personalized approach
The UW Health Metabolic Stone Clinic works with you to develop a plan to manage your condition and prevent recurrence.Learn more
Treatments and research
Treating your kidney stones
Your doctor may recommend medication and diet changes to treat your kidney stones.
At UW Health, we offer specialized nutrition therapy for kidney stone treatment and prevention at the Metabolic Stone Clinic. Appointments for the Metabolic Stone Clinic, which includes nutrition services provided by a RDN, are made by calling the UW Health Urology Clinic at (608) 263-4757.
Treating kidney stones
Treating kidney stones can involve observation, nutritional recommendations, medication and in some instances, surgery.
Observation is used for kidney stones that are not severe. We ask patients to drink 100 ounces or more of fluid per day and strain their urine to catch the stone. If we can analyze the stone, we can help prevent stones in the future. We may prescribe mediation for the pain. And we suggest exercise as a good way to help the passage of a kidney stone.
There are several medications that can reduce the risk of stone formation. We often use medication in combination of observation, nutrition therapy, and surgery. Some of the medications may include:
Diuretics (for hypercalciuria)
Potassium citrate (for hypocitraturia and/or acid urine)
Allopurinol (for hyperuricosiuria)
Antibiotics (for struvite stones)
Cystine-lowering drugs (for cystine stones)
Cholestyramine (for hyperoxaluria)
Nutrition therapy is determined after a 24-hour urine intake and evaluation process. There is no kidney stone diet that is appropriate for all users.
Sound waves, also called shock waves, are used to break kidney stones into small pieces. After ESWL, the small pieces of stone can pass through your urinary tract and out of your body
During PCNL, surgeons make a small incision in the back or side of your abdomen. A scope is passed through the incision to remove the stone.
During URS, a device called a scope is passed through your urethra — the tube that carries urine out of your bladder. The scope is used to remove the stone or break it into smaller pieces.
Understanding kidney stones
We want to find better treatments for kidney stones. To do this, urology experts at UW Health and the University of Wisconsin conduct laboratory research and clinical trials.
Learn more about our urology research program
Health-related quality of life
Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) has become a key component in surgical and medical management of kidney stones. As medical imaging has improved and now allows for even the smallest of stones to be monitored, urologists are better at advising patients about the need for and timing of surgical intervention. Traditionally, urologists have defined success as rendering the patient completely “stone-free,” even when more than one procedure is required to reach that end point. Because the goal of any therapy is to restore, improve, or preserve quality of life, the patient’s perspective is important in assessing surgical and overall therapeutic success.
Meet our team
Our team is here to help
Experts within our kidney stone program are dedicated to improving your quality of life.
Our team includes:
Nephrologists (kidney doctors)
Urologists (doctors and surgeons who care for the urinary tract)
Achieving success one patient at a time
UW Health Urology is recognized as a top national program for providing new and effective approaches to treatment. Although we do thousands of complex procedures every year, the care we provide you is the most important.
We offer advanced kidney stone treatment at University Hospital and our 1 S Park St Medical Center in Madison. Our urologists are experts in the care of conditions affecting the urinary tract.
Patient and support services