Excruciating pain awakened Laurie Panasci, of DeLand, in early 2005.
“It was the worst pain I’d ever felt,” she says. “I thought it was a bladder infection, but I was wrong.”
After a diagnosis of kidney stones at a local emergency room, Laurie was treated with lithotripsy, a 45-minute outpatient procedure, to alleviate her discomfort.
“Lithotripsy is the most common treatment for kidney stones,” says Jeffrey Brady, MD, a urologist at Florida Hospital. “It eliminates the need for more invasive surgery, and in almost 90 percent of cases, stones are eliminated with a single procedure.”
SOUND WAVES TO BREAK UP STONES
During the procedure, patients receive sedation or light anesthesia and either sit in a tub of water or on a specialized table that allows urologists to localize the stones and focus treatments. Using sound waves to create strong vibrations (shock waves), the stones are broken into tiny pieces, about the size of a grain of sand, which can be passed in your urine.
Most patients are eligible for lithotripsy, although some may not be suitable candidates. Factors such as size, location and number of stones; height; weight; pregnancy; and heart problems may indicate the need for a different treatment such as laser or ultrasound.
For patients who undergo lithotripsy, recovery usually takes two to three days. “I didn’t feel any pain afterward,” says Laurie. “My husband and I even went scuba diving in the Florida Keys the next week.”
HOW KIDNEY STONES FORM
As your kidneys filter waste from your blood, they create urine. Sometimes, salts and other minerals in urine stick together to form small stones. These can range from the size of a sugar crystal to the size of a pea, but they’re rarely noticed until they cause a blockage.
Kidney stones may cause intense pain if they break loose and push into or block the ureters, the narrow tubes leading to your bladder.
Symptoms to watch for include pain so severe you can’t sit comfortably, nausea, vomiting, blood in your urine, fever and chills. If you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Tests such as CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds and urinalysis can confirm the presence of stones. Blood tests can help look for high levels of minerals that are involved in forming stones.
HOW TO PREVENT KIDNEY STONES
Why some people form kidney stones and others don’t isn’t clear. “If you have one stone, you have a 50 percent chance of developing another over 10 years,” says Stephen Dobkin, MD, urologist at Florida Hospital.
Kidney stones are more common in young and middle-aged adults than in the elderly, and more prevalent in men than women. Sadly, they’re also on the rise in children.
The American diet could be a culprit because of high consumption of salt and fried foods, such as french fries and potato chips.
“Prepackaged foods and sports drinks contain high salt levels. And if you dine out, your favorite restaurant may add extra salt as seasoning,” cautions Dr. Dobkin. “Too much dietary sodium causes the body to release more calcium into the urine so consuming foods high in salt or not drinking enough water increases your risk.”
Dehydration plays a role, too. Some people living in hot climates like Florida mistakenly choose sodas, iced teas, coffee or other beverages in lieu of water. This leads to dehydration and higher mineral concentrations — composed of calcium oxalate crystals that form a type of salt difficult to dissolve in urine — which can raise your risk.
“Patients with kidney stones have increased over the last 30 years because they’re not hydrating properly,” says Dr. Brady.
“Make sure you add water to your diet,” adds Laurie. “If you don’t like plain water, add a slice of lime or lemon for extra flavor. Your kidneys will thank you.”
Published in the Fall 2012 issue of the Florida Hospital Best in Care Magazine