What Are Ureteric Stones?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Ureteric stones, or ureterolithiasis, are kidney stones that have become lodged in the ureters. A person's two ureters are tubes that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The terms ureteric stones and ureteral stones, which are used interchangeably, do not refer to a specific type of kidney stone, but rather to the location where they are found. There are different types of these deposits, which are made of minerals. Very small stones may pass out of the body by themselves; however, this can be quite painful and a doctor may recommend other treatments instead, such as sound wave therapy or even surgery.

Ureteric stones.
Ureteric stones.

Some people may be more susceptible to developing kidney stones. Genetics may predispose a patient to developing two types of stones, called cystine and uric acid stones. Those who frequently suffer from infections, like urinary tract infections may develop struvite stones. This type of kidney stone can grow quickly, often requiring more invasive treatment.

A urinalysis may be conducted to detect kidney stones.
A urinalysis may be conducted to detect kidney stones.

Calcium stones are the most common type. These are formed from high levels of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate. Dietary factors may contribute to the formation of these types of stones, such as a high intake of vitamin D. Gout or the use of diuretics or antacids that contain calcium can also cause this condition.

Patients who have ureteric stones will often complain of severe back pain, which can be caused when the stone becomes stuck in the tube. This obstruction also blocks urine from passing. Some patients may also experience a fever and chills, along with nausea and vomiting. Urination can be painful or difficult, and patients may notice bloody urine or the persistent urge to void. Pyeloneprhitis can also develop, which is an infection of the kidneys.

Those who experience pain and other symptoms should seek immediate medical help. The doctor will likely run imaging tests to determine the size of the ureteric stones. If they are small, he will often recommend a mild pain reliever and instruct the patient to drink a certain amount of water to encourage the stones to pass through the ureters.

Ureteric stones that are large or that cause severe symptoms may be treated with sound wave therapy, called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. Prior to this procedure, the patient may be sedated to alleviate any discomfort. The doctor will then use a machine to direct sound waves to break up the stones into smaller pieces. These smaller ureteric stones may then be passed in the urine.

Less commonly, a doctor may need to insert a thin piece of equipment called a ureteroscope through the bladder to grasp the stone and pull it out. If he cannot remove the stone this way, he may instead manually break it apart. Rarely, some patients may need surgery to remove the ureteric stones through an incision in the back.

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