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Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are pieces of solid, crystallized matter that form in the kidneys. These stones develop when chemicals that are normal in the urine become concentrated. Kidney stones are a common urinary tract disorder, affecting approximately 10 percent of people at some point in life.

Fortunately, kidney stones are highly treatable and usually do not cause permanent damage, although they can be painful. The physicians at Indiana University Health remove your kidney stones if necessary, identify their cause and help you prevent new ones from forming.

Kidney stone symptoms include:

  • Pain while urinating
  • Sharp pain in the lower back or lower abdomen
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abnormal urine color or odor

Kidney stones occur most often in people ages 20 to 50, and they affect more men than women. Most kidney stones are made of calcium. Others contain cystine, struvite or uric acid. It is not always clear why they form. Risk factors for kidney stones include:

  • Family history of kidney stones
  • Drinking too few fluids
  • Urinary tract blockage
  • Obesity
  • Gastrointestinal surgery
  • Hypercalciuria (condition in which the urine contains too much calcium)

Some kidney stones are small and pass out of the body without causing symptoms. Imaging techniques, such as X-ray, ultrasound and computed tomography (CT), can detect stones in patients with or without symptoms.

Most kidney stones exit the body on their own. Others become trapped in the ureter (tube that runs from the kidney to the bladder), where they can cause pain and even kidney damage.

We find the reason for your kidney stones and develop an individualized plan to manage them.

Our treatment of kidney stones focuses on two goals: removing stones completely and preventing their return. We remove kidney stones if they are causing pain or damaging your kidneys. Complete removal is important because remaining stones or fragments can cause new crystals to grow in the kidneys.

IU Health provides some of the best kidney stone treatment in the world. We brought extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL—using sound waves from outside the body to break up kidney stones) to the U.S. nearly 30 years ago. Around the same time, we also performed the first percutaneous (through a tube inserted into a small incision) kidney stone removal in the region.

We have developed advanced methods for removing kidney stones that enable our experts to perform the entire procedure. Previously it was necessary in some procedures to have a specially trained radiologist begin the procedure, which was then finished by a urologist. At IU Health, our specialists are trained to perform the entire procedure, reducing the risk of complications and providing a better patient experience.

If you have had kidney stones, you may be at risk of developing more stones in the future. Our experienced nephrologists, urologists, nurses and other team members manage kidney stones based on their type and cause. At the IU Health Kidney Stone Clinic, we use your medical history along with blood tests and specialized urine studies to find the reason for your problem. For most patients, dietary changes and medicine can stop kidney stones or reduce their frequency.

Through our close relationship with Indiana University School of Medicine, we offer the most innovative options for preventing kidney stones. The International Kidney Stone Institute, affiliated with IU Health Methodist Hospital and IU School of Medicine, is a center for excellence in kidney stone disease and a major center for independent evaluation of kidney stone treatments.

Our longstanding kidney stone research continues with studies funded by the National Institutes of Health. One of these is investigating the exact way lithotripsy works, enabling more advanced use of this technology for safe, effective treatment of kidney stones. We are also studying the causes of kidney stones, which may lead to guidelines for reducing or avoiding their formation in the body.

How We Can Help

What to Expect

Kidney Stones
Kidney Stones

How We Can Help

Kidney Stones Treatment Information

Kidney stone removal options include:

Preventing kidney stones requires an individualized plan based on the type of stones you have and the reason for the condition. Services and options related to kidney stone prevention include:

Kidney Stones Locations & Physicians

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Kidney Stones Support Services

Understanding kidney stones is important to controlling them. Learn more from these resources: