How long does it take for a kidney stone to pass?

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Kidney stone disease, also known as nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis, is when a solid piece of material (kidney stone) develops in the urinary tract.[1] A kidney stone is a solid, pebble-like piece of material that can form in one or both of your kidneys when high levels of certain minerals are in your urine. Kidney stones rarely cause permanent damage if treated by a health care professional.​

You may have a kidney stone if you feel a sharp pain in your back, side, lower abdomen, or groin; or have blood in your urine. If you have a small stone that easily passes through your urinary tract, you may not have symptoms at all.

So how long does it take?

According to Cleveleand Clinic, [2], The amount of time it can take for you to pass a kidney stone is different from another’s. A stone that’s smaller than 4 mm (millimeters) may pass within one to two weeks. A stone that’s larger than 4 mm could take about two to three weeks to completely pass. Once the stone reaches the bladder, it typically passes within a few days, but may take longer, especially in an older man with a large prostate. However, pain may subside even if the stone is still in the ureter, so it’s important to follow up with your healthcare provider if you don’t pass the stone within four to six weeks.

If you have kidney stones, drink lots of water unless otherwise directed by a health care professional. You may be able to prevent future kidney stones by making changes in how much sodium, animal protein, calcium, and oxalate you consume.

How are kidney stones treated?

Treatment for kidney stones usually depends on their size and what they are made of, as well as whether they are causing pain or obstructing the urinary tract. [3]

Kidney stones may be treated by a general practitioner or by a urologist—a doctor who specializes in the urinary tract. Small stones usually pass through the urinary tract without treatment. Still, the person may need pain medication and should drink lots of fluids to help move the stone along. Pain control may consist of oral or intravenous (IV) medication, depending on the duration and severity of the pain. IV fluids may be needed if the person becomes dehydrated from vomiting or an inability to drink. A person with a larger stone, or one that blocks urine flow and causes great pain, may need more urgent treatment, such as

  1. Shock wave lithotripsy. A machine called a lithotripter is used to crush the kidney stone. The procedure is performed by a urologist on an outpatient basis and anesthesia is used. In shock wave lithotripsy, the person lies on a table or, less commonly, in a tub of water above the lithotripter. The lithotripter generates shock waves that pass through the person’s body to break the kidney stone into smaller pieces to pass more readily through the urinary tract.
  2. Ureteroscopy. A ureteroscope—a long, tubelike instrument with an eyepiece—is used to find and retrieve the stone with a small basket or to break the stone up with laser energy. The procedure is performed by a urologist in a hospital with anesthesia. The urologist inserts the ureteroscope into the person’s urethra and slides the scope through the bladder and into the ureter. The urologist removes the stone or, if the stone is large, uses a flexible fiber attached to a laser generator to break the stone into smaller pieces that can pass out of the body in the urine. The person usually goes home the same day.
  3. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy. In this procedure, a wire-thin viewing instrument called a nephroscope is used to locate and remove the stone. The procedure is performed by a urologist in a hospital with anesthesia. During the procedure, a tube is inserted directly into the kidney through a small incision in the person’s back. For large stones, an ultrasonic probe that acts as a lithotripter may be needed to deliver shock waves that break the stone into small pieces that can be removed more easily. The person may have to stay in the hospital for several days after the procedure and may have a small tube called a nephrostomy tube inserted through the skin into the kidney. The nephrostomy tube drains urine and any residual stone fragments from the kidney into a urine collection bag. The tube is usually left in the kidney for 2 or 3 days while the person remains in the hospital.

How are kidney stones prevented?

The first step in preventing kidney stones is to understand what is causing the stones to form. The health care provider may ask the person to try to catch the kidney stone as it passes, so it can be sent to a lab for analysis. Stones that are retrieved surgically can also be sent to a lab for analysis.

The health care provider may ask the person to collect urine for 24 hours after a stone has passed or been removed to measure daily urine volume and mineral levels. Producing too little urine or having a mineral abnormality can make a person more likely to form stones. Kidney stones may be prevented through changes in eating, diet, and nutrition and medications.

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