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Kidney Stones

Although kidney stones can cause severe pain, they are highly treatable. These hard substances form in the kidneys from minerals in the urine.

Sometimes, kidney stones can pass out of your body on their own. If a stone gets stuck in your urinary tract, it can cause complications including urinary tract infections or even kidney damage as urine backs up in the kidneys.

After you develop one kidney stone, you are more likely to develop another one. At MUSC Health Urology, our urologists have special expertise in the most advanced procedures for not only treating kidney stones, but also preventing them from recurring.

Request an Appointment

To request more information about our kidney stone services or make an appointment, please call 843-792-7888. You can also learn more about MUSC urology, including who’s on our team and where we’re located.

Kidney Stone Care at MUSC Health

Kidney stones are on the rise nationwide, especially in South Carolina. The causes are not always clear, but a combination of dietary, metabolic and environmental factors can often be identified. Urologists at MUSC Health see many people with kidney stones, which gives us expertise that translates to superior care and treatment for you.

At MUSC Health, you benefit from:

  • Expert In-Office Ultrasound Diagnosis: We perform diagnostic ultrasounds right in our office, unlike many facilities that must refer people to a radiologist. In fact, our urologists are so skilled at ultrasound diagnosis that they train other urologists around the country.
  • In-Depth Evaluations to Prevent Stone Recurrence: In addition to treating kidney stones, we offer an in-depth metabolic evaluation for people who have had previous kidney stones. With the results of this thorough evaluation, we develop an individualized prevention program to reduce your risk of developing stones in the future.
  • Collaborative Expert Care at an Academic Medical Center: Some kidney stones are very large or in hard-to-reach places. We work hand-in-hand with MUSC interventional radiologists when needed, to help guide us in treating kidney stones.

Kidney Stone Symptoms

Kidney stones are very common, with nearly 1 in 10 people experiencing one in their lifetime. How do you know if you have one? The larger the stone, the more symptoms you will have. Common symptoms include:

  • Sharp pain in the lower back and side
  • Blood in your urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Urgent or frequent need to urinate

What Causes Kidney Stones?

The main cause of kidney stones is dehydration from not drinking enough water or not having enough fluids in your body. Living in a hot climate like in South Carolina can increase your risk of dehydration. Other causes and risk factors of kidney stones include:

  • Family history
  • Medications such as diuretics (pills to rid your body of excess water) and topiramate (Topamax®, an anti-seizure medicine)
  • Medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease and urinary tract infection
  • Diets that are high in sodium or other minerals commonly found in kidney stones such as oxalate (found in tea and peanuts)
  • Obesity

Kidney Stone Diagnosis & Prevention at MUSC

A precise diagnosis helps determine the most effective treatment and prevention plans. A comprehensive kidney stone diagnosis may include:

  • Physical exam
  • Medical history
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Imaging such as ultrasound, which our highly skilled urologists perform in our office

Although many facilities treat kidney stones, we aim to eliminate the stone and any chance of it coming back. We offer an in-depth metabolic evaluation for people with recurring stones or a high risk for recurring stones. Following the evaluation, we develop a personalized prevention plan.

Kidney Stone Treatment Options

Our highly experienced urology team offers all the most advanced treatment options available for kidney stones. We tailor each treatment plan to your specific needs, based on the location, size, and chemical makeup of the stone.

The first line of treatment, especially for small stones, is to help you pass the stone on its own. We recommend drinking more water and may also recommend over-the-counter pain relievers. We can also prescribe medication to relax muscles in your urinary tract to help the stone pass.

Some types of kidney stones - those that are larger or are causing complications such as bleeding or urinary tract infection - require other treatment methods. Our expert urologists offer advanced surgical or minimally invasive procedures to remove the stone:

  • Shock Wave Lithotripsy: A noninvasive procedure that uses shock waves to break up the kidney stone into small pieces so it’s easier to pass.
  • Endoscopic Surgery Through the Urinary Tract: A minimally invasive procedure in which urologists guide a scope through the urinary tract to the stone to break it up.
  • Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL): A minimally invasive procedure to remove larger kidney stones in the kidney.
  • Open Surgery: A rarely used option for large stones and obstructions, when appropriate.
  • Robotic Surgery: A minimally invasive procedure in which surgeons use robotic instruments inserted through small incisions in the abdomen to remove the stone.