How do I get Rid of a Large Kidney Stone?

Anna Harrison

A large kidney stone cannot be passed through the urinary tract in the way that smaller ones usually can, and eliminating them usually requires invasive procedures like nephroscopic surgery. This may either be treated as an inpatient in the hospital or as an outpatient in a doctor's office. Other procedures to remove a large kidney stone include ureterscopic removal or extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy.

Kidney stones next to a ruler to show the size.
Kidney stones next to a ruler to show the size.

While small kidney stones often produce no symptoms at all, a large kidney stone may cause severe discomfort. This happens when the stone moves and blocks urine flow. This causes a sharp pain or severe cramp in the back on the side where the stone is located. Blood may appear in the urine as a result of this blockage. If fever or chills occur, this may be a sign of a kidney stone infection, which can be treated with antibiotics.

A kidney with a kidney stone.
A kidney with a kidney stone.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is the kidney stone surgery that is often performed to remove a large kidney stone. Under general anesthesia, an incision is made into the kidney with a nephroscope, and the stone is removed. Patients will usually have to stay in the hospital for a day or two, and complete recovery from this surgery may take a few weeks.

A urinalysis may be conducted to detect kidney stones.
A urinalysis may be conducted to detect kidney stones.

Ureterscopic kidney stone removal involves inserting a small scope into the ureter to break up larger stones. A laser may be used to shatter the stones into small pieces, which makes removal easier. A tube called a stent may be temporarily inserted to help reduce swelling. This is done under both general and local anesthesia, depending on the individual circumstances.

In extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (SWL), shock waves are employed to shatter a large kidney stone into smaller pieces that are the size of a grain of sand. This unique procedure is done while the patient is underwater or lying down on a thick cushion and usually takes less than an hour. It is done under sedation or with local or general anesthesia. Shock waves pass through the entire body and break the kidney stones apart. The tiny pieces are easily passed in the urine.

Side effects to treating kidney stones with the SWL method include blood in the urine and bruising of the back and abdomen. In addition, very large stones may require more than one treatment to break them into small enough pieces. It may take several months for all of the pieces to pass through the urinary tract.

Although antibiotics can not be used to eliminate kidney stones, they can be used to treat kidney stone infections.
Although antibiotics can not be used to eliminate kidney stones, they can be used to treat kidney stone infections.

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Discussion Comments


@irontoenail - I agree that the best thing to do is try to keep your diet healthy, but unfortunately some people are just prone to kidney stones. My father always tried to keep to a good diet and he still suffered from them three times.

Home remedies for kidney stones can help, like drinking citrus juice (especially lemon juice) and eating certain kinds of herbs.

But, sometimes you just get them for no real reason. I don't think people should feel too bad about it. It's not always that you've done something wrong.


@pleonasm - That's what's supposed to happen, but it is not a foolproof procedure. As it says in the article sometimes it takes several goes to make sure the stones have shattered into small enough pieces.

And, if they shatter into pieces that are small enough to pass, but large enough to cause pain, well there's not much the doctor can do to prevent them passing until they've been made small enough. You just have to hope that won't happen.

Really the best thing to do is try to eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water. That's how to avoid kidney stones in the first place.


Passing kidney stones is supposed to be one of the most painful experiences you can have. I've heard some women who have given birth consider passing kidney stones to be more painful.

I suppose it depends on the size of the kidney stone. The worst must be when it is small enough to enter the ureter, but large enough to scrape the sides.

Actually I had a friend tell me she knew someone who had a particularly sharp kidney stone that tore up his ureter and he was in agony for weeks.

I think if I had a choice I'd prefer the shock treatment so that the kidney stones don't cause pain, or at least probably won't. They get shattered into such small pieces they pass without you even noticing.

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