What Should I Expect from Kidney Stone Surgery?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

When a patient cannot pass kidney stones on his or her own, it's time for kidney stone surgery. There are a number of surgical options to deal with kidney stones, and each works slightly differently. In all cases, the patient should expect to spend at least a few hours in the hospital and possibly a few days.

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

For any type of kidney stone surgery, the doctor will confirm the presence of kidney stones before operating. The patient's general health will also be assessed to confirm that he or she is a good candidate for surgery. Patients will be interviewed about any history of reactions to drugs or anesthetics, and the patient will usually meet with an anesthesiologist to talk about what to expect from the anesthetic used, which may range from a mild sedative to full anesthesia in which the patient is totally asleep.

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

Patients usually cannot eat or drink for several hours prior to their surgery, due to concerns about reactions to the anesthetic. During the surgery, a doctor will either break up the kidney stones, or take them out, depending on the procedure. Once the surgery is complete, the patient will be given drugs to offset the anesthesia or sedative used. After the surgery, the patient will be given prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infection, along with care instructions for the surgical site.

The type of kidney stone surgery performed depends on the needs of each patient.
The type of kidney stone surgery performed depends on the needs of each patient.

In the least invasive form of kidney stone surgery, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), the doctor will attempt the break the kidney stones up from outside the body with a sound wave or electrical impulse, so that the patient can pass the stones independently. This procedure includes the use of a tracer dye and medical imaging device so that the doctor can pinpoint the location of the stones.

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

Ureteroscopy is another surgical option, usually performed under general anesthesia. In this procedure, the doctor threads a device into the ureter and pulls the kidney stones out or attempts to break them up with a laser in laser lithotripsy, using the camera on the device to see what is going on inside the kidneys. This kidney stone surgery may include the temporary placement of a drainage tube in the kidneys to promote rapid drainage of fluids after the surgery.

The kidneys perform a crucial role of keeping the blood clean and chemically balanced.
The kidneys perform a crucial role of keeping the blood clean and chemically balanced.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is a more invasive option. In this procedure, the doctor makes a small incision in the back to access the kidney directly, inserting medical tools into a catheter placed in the incision for the purpose of viewing the kidney and pulling out the kidney stones. This procedure is also performed under general anesthesia, and it has a recovery time of a few days.

It is also possible for a surgeon to decide on open surgery to treat kidney stones. This is an extremely rare choice, as most other surgical techniques will accomplish the desired goal of removing kidney stones. Open surgery has a much longer recovery time, because it requires the creation of a long incision to access the kidney, and the patient will have to live with drainage tubes for a few days or weeks after the surgery.

Patients are typically given preventative antibiotics after having kidney stone surgery.
Patients are typically given preventative antibiotics after having kidney stone surgery.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I had a stone removed three days ago. Now I'm stuck with a green pipe in my penis. Every time I urinate it feels like I'm passing blades. It is sore as hell, but I can say that the pain is getting better every day. I have to remove the pipe thingy (don't know what it's called) in about seven days' time and I'm not looking forward to that.


I just had my laser procedure done on Friday evening. I was told I had a 6mm stone and it will pass on its own. I had pain for about a month. I've had stones before so I knew exactly what I was going through. I'm just glad this is over and I can go on.


I have a 2cm by 1.9cm kidney stone in my left side. I have had pain for a 1 1/2 months now, and it got to the point that I ended up with a really bad infection because my kidney was not draining at all. The stone became embedded in my kidney.

I have just now gotten the pressure out of my kidney by the use of a stent that has been in there for three weeks now. This has been a painful road. However, it ends tomorrow because I am having it removed via laser lithotripsy and hopefully after they remove this stent in a week or two after the laser thing, this will be over.


I have had surgery and had this 9mm stone removed. It lay dormant for seven months and infected my kidney last year, due to an ER doctor telling me it was passable.

I went home with two shots, which made this stone go dormant and it returned seven months later. This was a bad call by the ER doctor. Now after surgery my new doctor is so mad they told me this and did not tell me it was so large.

I am trying to recover. I need to ask what I can eat to bring my health back to normal. I am still feeling sick, with no energy and just blah feeling. I need to get my health back ASAP. I am not a sick person in life nor do I like drugs or take drugs. I don't drink or have bad health issues, and never have had them. I am a healthy person.


I've had about five kidney stones and just had surgery last week on one. I've had small ones to larger ones with the largest being 10X6mm, which I passed. This last one was 8X7mm and I had to have surgery because it got stuck and started cutting into the wall lining.

In all the cases, whenever I got the stones, I had back/kidney pain to abdominal pain. Urine became dark in color (dark brownish). I never had painful urination though, as mentioned by others. Even when I passed the stones, it really didn't hurt much. The real pain was as it was moving out of the kidneys. This last stone that I had surgery on, I had a lot of blood in my urine for a day.


I have kidney stones currently and you cannot actually see the blood in your urine. When the doctor tests your urine for different things such as a UTI he or she may find the blood in the urine but mine couldn't actually been seen by my eye.


I think out of all the treatments of kidney stones, I'd have to go for the extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy.

The fewer people poking around in my body, the better!


@galen84basc -- The most common kidney stone symptoms are nausea, nagging back pain, and blood in the urine.

When passing kidney stones, symptoms include extreme severe pain, and frequent, often painful urination.

Believe me, if you start to pass one of these guys, you'll know it.

However, having blood in the urine like you mentioned is a sign that the stone has either punctured the tissue surrounding it or the wall of the ureter, and should be taken seriously.

I think you should see your doctor so he can either start you on a treatment for kidney stones or tell you what else is going on.


How do I know if I have kidney stones?

I've recently been passing bloody urine, but I thought that might just be a UTI.

Can anybody tell me the most common kidney stones symptoms?

If I have one I really want to take care of it so I don't have to have surgery!

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