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What Are Struvite Kidney Stones?

A urinalysis may be conducted to detect kidney stones.
Antibiotics are prescribed to prevent further kidney stone formation.
Kidney stones next to a ruler to show the size.
A kidney with a kidney stone.
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  • Written By: J. Banfield
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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Kidney stones are hard, rock-like masses that form within the kidneys as the result of accumulated mineral salts and other substances. These masses range in size and can be as small as a grain of sand or larger than a golf ball. Typically, most are less than 1/3 inch (8.5 mm) in diameter. There are five types of kidney stones, each classified by the substances that cause it. Struvite kidney stones are larger stones that consist primarily of ammonium and magnesium phosphate.

Struvite kidney stones are quite large stones that look like hard crystal and make up from 10 percent to 15 percent of all kidney stones. Bacterial waste and infection are to blame for struvite kidney stones, which form as urea-splitting bacteria flourish in the wake of a kidney or urinary tract infection. These bacteria can be found in the kidneys or in the blood. Struvite kidney stones are most common in women, infants and the elderly, all of whom are more susceptible because they are more prone to urinary tract infections. The infection, stone formation and symptoms can all be severe.

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Symptoms of struvite kidney stones vary slightly from other kidney stone conditions. Fever, chills, nausea and loss of appetite are common, and burning abdominal pain, similar to the pain of a kidney or urinary tract infection, may indicate the presence of struvite kidney stones. Differing from calcium kidney stones, the pain is dull, aching, burning, less localized and less likely to occur in repeated flare-ups of pain. Damage to the inner lining of the urinary tract as the result of an infection can cause the appearance of blood in the urine. The accompanying infection may also cause cloudy urine or an unusual odor.

Struvite kidney stones’ link to bacteria means physician-prescribed antibiotics must be administered to kill the infection and prevent further stone formation. If the stone is small enough, it can be passed on its own through normal urination. If it is too large and painful, other methods must be implemented for removal.

Extracorporeal shock-wave therapy removes stones smaller than 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) near the kidney. Ultrasonic waves or shock waves break up the stones so they may pass from the body via the urine. Ureteroscopy is utilized for stones in the lower urinary tract. This involves inserting a tube through the urethra to reach the stones. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy removes larger stones by inserting an endoscope into the kidney through a small opening.

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