Ureteric stones

Our kidneys filter waste and water from the body and drain urine it into the ureters to be expelled during urination. Mineral substances, such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid, can form into crystals called calculi. These can then move into the ureter and are then called ureteric stones. Ureteric stones can give rise to dreadful pain that can occur in the loin or groin and even can be felt in the bladder and they can be associated with blood in the urine.

Ureteric stones are fairly common and some people may not even have any symptoms as the stone will be small enough to pass through urination. Sometimes they can also sit in the ureter and be painless.

Ureteric stones can cause the following symptoms:

  • Severe abdominal pain in the back or in the groin area
  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty in urination
  • Blood in urine

To diagnose ureteric stones, a simple urine sample can be used to detect traces of blood in the urine. Further investigations such as CT scanning and X-rays are able to see if a ureteric stone is the cause of the symptoms.

Surgery is always the last resort and usually not necessary. If the ureteric stones are small, drinking plenty of water daily will help the stone pass naturally during urination. If the stone is painful, medication can also be prescribed to help with the relief and control of acid in the urine.

For stones that are causing pain, or large in size and are at risk causing infection and growing bigger, surgery or lithotripsy will be an option.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) – A common procedure for treating ureteric stones. This is a minimally invasive procedure that uses shock waves to break down kidney and ureteric stones so the body can pass them naturally and without pain.

Ureteroscopic Stone Removal – This procedure involves passing a fibreoptic ureteroscope through the bladder and into the ureter. A laser is then used to break up the stone into smaller pieces which can be passed naturally.

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy – A rarely used minimally invasive procedure that uses a small thin scope that is inserted from your back. This is used to remove large stones lodged in the upper ureter.

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