Updated May 12, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – Kidney stones are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract. These develop from crystals that separate from the urine and build up on the inner surfaces of the kidney. If the crystals remain small, they can travel through the urinary tract and pass out unnoticed while urinating. However, if the crystals accumulate and form a large stone or stones, they can impair the function of the kidneys that can obstruct the flow of urine and cause excruciating pain. In cases like these, treatment should be done. If left untreated, kidneys may be permanently damaged by an obstructing stone in only a few days.
Diet, dehydration (not drinking enough water when doing manual labor or indulging in sport), and family history are just a few of the reasons why stones occur.
The common symptoms of stone disease are sharp pain in the abdomen or lower back, fever, blood in the urine, and pain when urinating.
Kidney stones can be treated through surgery, the most common form of treatment. Surgery is painful, leaves a scar, and requires a long recovery period — about four to six weeks. Lithotripsy or extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is the therapy of choice. This non-invasive technique uses shock waves instead of a knife to remove the stones from the kidney and urinary tract. The shockwaves pass harmlessly through body tissues. When the shock waves strike the kidney stone, cracks appear in the kidney stone’s surface. After about one hour, the stone is pulverized. The fragments pass out naturally during urination for a number of days or even weeks after lithotripsy.
Lithotripsy uses a simple device called a lithotripter. The physician localizes and then focuses shock waves directly on the stone. The lithotripter is very precise, delivering the right amount of energy to break the stone without damaging organs or surrounding tissues. The treatment usually consists of several thousand shocks which break the stone into very small fragments. These fragments are passed spontaneously during urination. The procedure usually lasts about one hour and is performed on an outpatient (OPD) basis. Re-treatment may be necessary in some cases to completely disintegrate larger stones.
The procedure is safe and performed worldwide with excellent results. It is non-invasive and conducted under the supervision of a highly-trained physician and technician. Occasional side effects are bruising around the treatment area, blood in urine, and pain for a few days following lithotripsy. While most people can undergo lithotripsy, inform your doctor if you have high blood pressure, a blood clotting disorder, or a urinary tract infection. Pregnant women must not undergo lithotripsy. To date, over 25,000 patients have been treated in the Philippines in the last 15 years with stone-free rates ranging from 70 to 100 percent, depending on the stone burden, location, and number of treatments.
For more information on non-surgical kidney stone treatment and related concerns, call De Los Santos Medical Center Stone Center at 723-0041-54 local 127 and 129 or direct line 726-3572 from Monday to Friday.