5.OCT.2018 4 MIN READ | 4 MIN READ

If kidney stones are giving you pain and are stuck in your urinary tract, you may need to have them removed with surgery.

Sometimes, kidney stones pass on their own without treatment. But if yours get stuck, you can opt for a kidney stone removal procedure. An Integrated Shield Plan can also give you peace of mind by covering for your medical costs so you can focus on recovery.

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones surgery - What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are hard, lumpy deposits of salt, calcium or other minerals. There are several possible causes, including:

  • Dehydration
  • Diet (eg. too much salt)
  • Obesity
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Congenital kidney defect that increases urinary calcium
  • High levels of certain chemicals in urine (eg. excessive uric acid causing gout)

If you have kidney stones, you may experience pain in your back, pain when urinating, an urgent need to urinate, or even blood in your urine. If a kidney stone develops into an infection, you may also experience a fever and chills.

It’s important to remember that anyone can develop a kidney stone at any time. If you suspect you have kidney stones, you should consult your doctor for a formal diagnosis.

What is the kidney stone removal procedure?

The pain of passing a kidney stone is sometimes compared to childbirth. If you’d rather not put yourself through that, the good news is that kidney stone removal is quite straightforward. And if you have an Integrated Shield Plan that covers private hospitals and a full rider*, you won’t have to pay a cent if you opt for treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospitals.

Nowadays, the most common form of kidney stone removal is extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), especially for smaller stones. This procedure uses sound waves to break the kidney stones into smaller pieces, which means it’s easier to pass them through your urinary tract naturally.

An ESWL takes around 45 minutes, and is usually done as a day procedure. You’ll be given painkillers or general anaesthetic to relax you before the procedure takes place, as well as to minimise any discomfort during the process.

What are the benefits of ESWL?

Kidney stones surgery - Lithotripsy
ESWL is a relatively low-risk procedure, which usually removes kidney stones completely. It’s also non-invasive, which means you don’t need surgery and you should recover much quicker than you would otherwise.

As it’s a day procedure, you should be in and out of the hospital fairly quickly, with an average of 2 hours set aside for recovery time. You may see traces of blood in your urine for a few days after treatment, and you will most likely be able to resume normal activities shortly after treatment. Possible side effects associated with kidney stone removal, such as infection and internal bleeding, are also very rare.

Are there other options to remove kidney stones?

If a kidney stone is proving to be particularly troublesome, a ureteroscopy may help to gently remove it. Your doctor will insert a thin tube through your urethra and into your urinary system before using a laser or special tool to loosen the stone and break it up into smaller pieces. You’ll be asleep during the procedure, so you won’t feel any pain.

Other potential options include a minimally invasive percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL), in which a special instrument is inserted into your kidney through a small incision (0.5cm in diameter) in your back, or more rarely, open surgery.

Your doctor will recommend the best treatment option for you based on factors like size, location and hardness of stones.


Article reviewed by Dr Michael Wong, urologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital


Kiefer, D. (2017, March 29). Lithotripsy. Retrieved 12 September 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/health/lithotripsy

Treatment: Kidney Stones. (n.d.). Retrieved 12 September 2018 from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kidney-stones/treatment/

What Causes Kidney Stones? (n.d.). Retrieved 12 September 2018 from https://www.webmd.com/kidney-stones/kidney-stone-causes#1

Wong Yuet Chen Michael
Mount Elizabeth Hospital

Dr Michael Wong is a US fellowship-trained urologist practising at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore.