What is Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy?

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  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2020
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The word percutaneous refers to a procedure done through the skin. Nephro refers to the kidneys, and lithotomy means removing stones through cutting. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy, also known as nephrolithotripsy, therefore, is a surgical procedure that involves making a small incision in the skin in order to remove a stone that formed in the kidney. It is often recommended in the treatment of kidney stones, which are of medium or larger size, and those which are already causing obstruction in the flow of urine. The presence of a staghorn calculi, a kidney stone associated with frequent kidney infections, may also need percutaneous nephrolithotomy.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is usually done under general anesthesia, with the patient lying on his stomach. Through the small incision in the back, the nephrology surgeon inserts a hollow tube until it reaches the affected kidney. A nephrology surgeon is a medical doctor who performs surgical operations in patients with kidney disorders. Once the kidney stone or stones are located, they are then broken into smaller pieces and extracted out of the kidney through the tube. The surgery may last about three to four hours.


After the procedure, patients are advised to stay in the hospital for two to five days depending on their condition. Many patients go back to work in a few weeks. The majority of percutaneous nephrolithotomy procedures are successful in removing stones in the kidney and the ureter, a small tube that connects the kidney to the bladder.

There are some risks involved in doing a percutaneous nephrolithotomy procedure. These include possible injury to the bladder or colon, and creation of a hole in the kidney. Bleeding may sometimes occur from injury within the kidney and around the area of incision. Symptoms of infection, such as urinary discomfort, pain, and fever can also occur after surgery.

Patients with kidney stones often complain of sudden pain in the lower back, which usually comes and goes. The pain is usually due to the movement of the stone in the urinary tract, which can become worst if it passes down to the ureter. Other symptoms manifested by patients with kidney stones include vomiting, nausea, chills, fever, pain during urination, and sometimes, passing bloody urine.

Men who are 30 years old and older have increased risk of kidney stone formation compared to women. History of urolithiasis in the family also increases an individual's risk for developing the disease. Urolithiasis is a condition marked by the formation of stones in the kidney. High protein diet as well as consumption of tea, chocolate, spinach and strawberries may also contribute to development of kidney stones.



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