Using this guide What's covered
Here you’ll find answers to many of your questions about kidney stone surgery. Learn how it’s done, what it may cost, what your recovery may be like, and more.
To see how the surgery’s done, watch our animation below.
For personal insights, see our patient experience videos in which HCF members talk frankly about their preparation, surgery and recovery.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, are hard little stones made from crystals. They’re produced when your urine becomes overloaded with certain minerals and salts. The minerals and salts can be made from calcium, uric acid, struvite or, occasionally, cystine. Sometimes a mixture of minerals is involved. If a stone moves and blocks the flow of urine, it can damage your kidney if it’s not treated promptly. Some stones are caused by bacteria or can harbour bacteria which can cause infection.
While they’re usually formed in your kidneys, kidney stones can appear anywhere in your urinary tract, including your ureters (the tubes leading from your kidneys to your bladder), your bladder itself, or your urethra (the tube that empties urine from your bladder). Kidney stones are often symptom-free until they start to move. Often you can pass them without surgery but if one gets stuck, it’ll probably be the most painful thing you’ve ever felt. You’ll need to go to hospital right away. You may need to call an ambulance.
What is kidney stone surgery?
Kidney stone surgery is done to remove stone/s that are causing problems. About 10% to 20% of kidney stones need to be surgically removed.
There are 3 main surgical procedures for treating kidney stones, depending on the size, position and type of stone/s:
- Shock wave lithotripsy: Your surgeon uses soundwaves to break up the stones and you then pass the fragments in your urine.
- Ureteroscopy: Your surgeon inserts a tube with a camera and light on the tip through your urethra, and up towards the stone. A laser is then used to break the stone into fragments that the surgeon then extracts or allows to wash out in your urine.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotripsy: Your surgeon makes a small incision in your back near your kidney. Instruments are inserted to break up and suck out the stone fragments.
Occasionally, laparoscopic (keyhole) or open surgery can be used to remove a kidney stone if it’s very large or if you have complications.
Learn about kidney stone surgery
CONSIDERING THE PROCEDURE
Alternatives to kidney stone surgery
There may be other options, depending on your condition.
Types of kidney stone surgery
There are several different surgical ways to treat kidney stones.
Results vs risks of the procedure
The benefits and potential complications of kidney stone surgery.
Choosing a specialist
How to find a surgeon who specialises in this procedure.
Questions for your surgeon
What you should ask before going ahead with kidney stone surgery.
Preparing for your procedure
Pre-operative tests and preparation before kidney stone surgery.
Your anaesthetic options
Your anaesthesia and post-op pain relief.
Going to hospital
What to expect on the day.
What happens during the procedure.
After your procedure
Your hospital stay.
Resuming activities and watching for problems.
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