What Are Ureteral Calculi?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2018
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Ureteral calculi are stone-like masses found in one or both ureters, the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. In many cases, these stones begin in the kidneys and travel to the ureters, sometimes leading to complications such as obstruction or blood in the urine. Some of the most frequently reported symptoms of ureteral calculi include pain in the abdomen or lower back, nausea, and fever. Treatment is not usually needed for small stones, although larger stones or those leading to a urinary obstruction may require medical treatment or even surgical intervention. Specific questions or concerns about ureteral calculi or the most appropriate treatment options for an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Attached to each kidney is a thin, flexible tube known as a ureter. This tube is responsible for transporting urine from the kidneys to the bladder in preparation for exit from the body. Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, sometimes travel into one of the ureters, and these stones are referred to as ureteral calculi. Smaller stones typically pass through the urine and do not cause any significant health concerns, although the ureter may sometimes become partially or completely blocked. An obstruction such as this may cause the urine stream to become weak, or in more severe cases urination may become impossible.


Symptoms of ureteral calculi are essentially the same as with kidney stones and usually involve intense pain in the abdomen or lower back and side, which is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting. A fever is sometimes present, especially if the stone has caused tissue damage resulting in the development of an infection. Torn tissue can cause blood to appear in the urine or pain when attempting to urinate.

Treatment for ureteral calculi depends on specific symptoms and the presence of complications such as urinary obstruction. As most stones pass on their own without incident, over-the-counter or prescription medications, rest, and fluids may be the only methods of treatment necessary. If the stones are too large to pass naturally or if a blockage occurs, more invasive procedures may become necessary.

Lithotripsy is a medical procedure that uses shock waves to break the stone into smaller fragments so that it can pass normally through the urine stream. A ureteroscopy is a little more invasive and uses a tube that is inserted into the ureter to break up or remove the stone. In more severe cases, a nephrolithotomy may be indicated. This procedure involves the use of general anesthesia, and a small incision is made in the flank area so that the stone can be surgically removed.



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