Kidney Stones

Almost all kidney stones pass on their own, naturally. But naturally doesn’t always mean easily or pain free. Lehigh Valley Health Network’s prevention-focused urology care provides expert kidney stone diagnosis and treatment services, including the latest advances in laser surgery.

If you have sharp pain from a sizeable kidney stone, it may be all you can think about. Even though most stones will pass on their own, painful kidney stones require urgent medical attention. At Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), you’re in the hands of skilled, experienced urology specialists.

We treat kidney stones using the least invasive means and the most advanced technology. Our goal is to treat the immediate problem while also pinpointing what caused the stone to develop. That helps us come up with a personalized plan that will help you prevent kidney stones in the future.

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are masses that develop when high levels of certain minerals and salts accumulate in the kidneys. Stones that make their way to the bladder are called bladder stones. Most stones stay small or leave the body through your urine without becoming an issue.

When a larger stone gets stuck – in the ureter, bladder or urethra – it can block urine flow. A lodged kidney stone can be very painful and may require medical help to remove it.

Kidney stone symptoms

If you think your pain is related to a kidney stone, you should call your doctor. Common symptoms include:

  • Very sharp pain coming from the back, side or lower abdomen
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urine that looks cloudy
  • Urinating more often than normal
  • Feeling a burning sensation when you urinate
  • Fever and chills

Kidney stone diagnosis

At LVHN, our urology teams take a “centers of excellence” approach to your care. This approach helps us deliver high-quality care quickly, because our providers specialize in treating your concerns.

Your provider will conduct a thorough physical examination. Other tests can also help to diagnose stones:

  • Urine or blood tests: These tests look for infection and certain substances that make it more likely a stone would develop.
  • Imaging tests: Advanced imaging such as X-rays or ultrasound can give doctors a clear view into your internal organs. If doctors detect a stone, imaging tests can also help doctors determine its size and shape.

Kidney stone treatments

Your provider will consider your symptoms and test results before talking to you about your treatment options. Our goal is to treat the immediate problem while also pinpointing what caused the stone to develop.

We then come up with a personalized plan that will offer diet and lifestyle strategies that can help you avoid getting kidney stones in the future. Based on your circumstances, your provider may recommend:

  • Medication or fluids: Your doctor may give you medication to relieve your discomfort or fluids to help your body push the stone out.
  • Laser ureteroscopy: If a stone won’t pass on its own, advanced laser surgery can break it up and remove it at the same time.
  • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy: For this procedure, sound waves are applied to the skin to break a kidney stone into small pieces.
  • Surgery for complex cases: If more complicated surgery is indicated, LVHN’s urology specialists have expertise in all minimally invasive, open and even robotic techniques. We are experienced in performing the latest types of kidney stone removal surgery and can address highly complex cases. For example, the MOSES™ system allows our providers to offer outpatient stone surgery to patients who otherwise would need more invasive surgery. This systems makes the stone fragments much smaller and the patient is able to pass them easily, thus patients do not need an overnight stay in the hospital.
    Learn more about the MOSES system for kidney stone treatment.