Results vs risks of the procedure

The benefits and potential complications vary depending on the type and size of your kidney stones and which procedure you have.


How effective your surgery is depends on a number of things, including your general health and the health of your kidneys.

Which kidney stone surgery is the most effective?

In clinical studies, percutaneous nephrolithotripsy gave a 95% success rate after a single surgery. Compare this to ureteroscopy with an 88% success rate and shock wave lithotripsy, which had a 68% success rate after one procedure and 76% after two procedures.

Percutaneous nephrolithotripsy and open surgery are equally effective, with a similar rate of complications. However, the former is less invasive and your hospital stay is likely to be shorter.

If you have cystine stones, shock wave lithotripsy isn’t usually recommended because the stones don’t easily break up. Although laser-based surgery is a minimally invasive option, it may be that you need percutaneous nephrolithotripsy.

Risks and complications

As with any medical procedure, there are some potential risks.

Shock wave lithotripsy

Shock wave lithotripsy is considered a relatively safe procedure. Complications include:

  • pain caused by the passage of stone fragments
  • blockage to urine flow from stone fragments, requiring further surgery
  • infection
  • bleeding around the outside of your kidney from the shock waves bruising the tissues
  • high blood pressure
  • damage to sperm and a temporary decline in fertility (for men).


Complications are more likely if the stone is close to your kidney. They include:

  • injury to your ureter
  • infection
  • bleeding
  • abdominal pain.

Percutaneous nephrolithotripsy

Complications are uncommon but could include:

  • infection
  • bleeding
  • injury to nearby organs such as your spleen, liver, bowel, lung, or diaphragm.

Open surgery

The risks include:

  • infection
  • bleeding
  • hernia where the incision was made for your surgery

Ask your surgeon about the results and risks associated with your procedure. Also ask about their own rates of patient satisfaction and the rate of complications following the procedures they’ve performed.

Choosing a specialist

How to find a surgeon who specialises in kidney stones surgery.

important information

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.