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Kidney Stone Disease


A kidney stone is a hard mass formed when chemicals in the urine (uric acid, calcium, oxylates or phosphates) crystallize.  Urine normally contains chemicals that prevent these crystals from forming, but in persons with kidney stones, this process does not function.

Many people can form kidney stones and not need surgical intervention as the stones are small enough to pass out of our bodies through urination. Kidney stones can drop into the ureter and cause blockage, as well as significant pain. Stones too large to pass may also be present in the kidneys and not cause symptoms but treatment may be recommended to prevent stones from getting larger and requiring more invasive removal techniques.

People normally develop kidney stones between the ages of 30 and 60, and men appear to be at higher risk.  However, with growing incidences of obesity in the United States, the number of women developing kidney stones also appears to be increasing.  Once an individual has kidney stones, they most likely will develop them again. Typically, simple changes to one’s diet, including drinking more water and avoiding certain foods, can help keep kidney stones under control.

People with the following risk factors may be more prone to develop kidney stones:

  • A family history of kidney stones
  • Hyperparathyroidism (a condition that causes an excess of calcium in the blood)
  • Diabetes
  • Recurring urinary tract infection

Overt symptoms that may indicate kidney stones include:

  • Pain in the back radiating to the front flank
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea and vomiting

Kidney stones can be diagnosed most effectively through a CT scan to determine size, density and location, providing physicians the needed information to recommend the best treatment option.

Why NorthShore

The team at the John and Carol Walter Center for Urological Health includes board-certified urologists, dedicated support personnel including a nurse navigator, patient service associates, nutritionists and integrative medicine experts conveniently located in one main location. Our team also includes a full complement of dedicated basic scientists who are committed to improving the care for men and women affected with urological disease.

Additionally, urologists  from the Walter Center work closely with their physician colleagues from other specialties at NorthShore to provide patients with a multidisciplinary approach to care.  In the case of kidney stone disease, this may include close collaboration with nephrologists. Nutrition counseling can be of great importance in reducing the incidence of kidney stones, and patients at the Walter Center will have access to the center’s dedicated nutritionist.


Advances in technology have greatly altered the treatment for removing kidney stones.  The Walter Center offers the most leading-edge options for removing kidney stones, including:

  • Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy:  This is the most frequently prescribed treatment for kidney stones, which uses shock waves outside the body to target and break down kidney stones inside of the body.  The stones are reduced to particles that then exit the body through urination.  The procedure can usually be performed on an outpatient basis with a relatively short recovery time.
  • Ureteroscopy:  A urologist inserts the thin ureterscope into the ureter and breaks up the kidney stones with a small laser.  The procedure is normally used if the stone is in the ureter or kidney and can also be performed on an outpatient basis.
  • Percutaneous Neprolithotomy:  This procedure is typically reserved for large kidney stones.  A small incision is made in the back and a tract to the kidney is developed.  Stones are then fragmented and retrieved through the tract.  This procedure requires a brief hospital stay.

Based on your individual diagnosis, your physician will determine which treatment is best for you.

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 847.503.3000.