Laser surgery for kidney stones is normally very effective. When this type of surgery is successfully performed, it can break very large kidney stones into many tiny pieces. The smaller pieces can then typically be passed through the body during urination with minimal pain. Kidney stones that are unusually large often cannot pass on their own, which is why laser surgery to break up the stones is sometimes necessary. A person who has experienced kidney stone pain with no relief for more than a few weeks may want to discuss laser surgery for kidney stones with his doctor.
A person who is considering laser surgery for kidney stones will need to speak with his doctor to be sure he is a candidate for this type of surgery. In some cases, laser surgery may not be the best option, and open surgery might be necessary. When kidney stones are larger than about 1 inch (3 cm) there is a good chance the laser will not be able to break up the stones into pieces small enough to pass through the urinary tract. The best results are typically achieved from laser surgery when stones are roughly 0.3 to 1 inch (1 to 3 cm) in size. If large pieces of kidney stones remain in a person's body, there is a good chance that new stones will form from the remnants.
Another thing that tends to affect the success rate of laser surgery for kidney stones is the type of kidney stone a person has. Stones that formed from uric acid or calcium tend to break apart much easier than other types of stones. Staghorn stones, which are irregularly shaped stones with large protrusions sticking out of the sides, tend to be difficult to break up with a laser regardless of what substance they are made. Additionally, cystine stones are also hard to break apart with a laser. Cystine stones, which form from amino acids inside the body, are generally very rare.
After laser surgery for kidney stones is complete, there are occasionally some uncomfortable recovery symptoms. Many people who have this type of surgery report blood in the urine and severe abdominal pain for a few days. There is also normally some pain when the shattered stone fragments pass through the urinary tract, although this pain is typically much less intense than what it would be if the stone weren't broken up. In most cases, a person should be fully recovered from laser surgery for kidney stones within a few weeks.