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

  • Fever

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Pain

Diagnosing kidney stones

Your doctor will use imaging tests to diagnose kidney stones. These include:

A CT scan takes a picture of your kidneys or bladder. This scan also shows if urine flow is blocked.

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.

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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.

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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)

  • Nurses

  • Nutritionists

  • Physician assistants

Our providers

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.

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Personalized care

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

Important resources for you

Health Facts for You

Online resources

In the news

Photo of Ed Feiteira in a garage
Clinical trialsClinical trial examines new way of eliminating kidney stones
UW Health is one of the first sites in the country to use new technology to remove large kidney stones.