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Removing stones through a small cut in your back

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If you have a stone in one of your kidneys, a small operation where doctors make a cut in your back will probably be able to remove it. But there hasn't been much good-quality research.

This operation is called percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL). It is often used when a stone is quite large or in a place that can't easily be reached with shock wave therapy. [2]

A review of the research found that PCNL worked more quickly than shock wave therapy to remove stones from the kidneys. [36] One good-quality study (a randomised controlled trial) found that: [27]

  • 95 out of 100 people who had PCNL had no stones three months after treatment

  • 37 in 100 people who had shock wave therapy had no stones three months after treatment.

Altogether, 10 in 100 people who started out having shock wave therapy needed another procedure to get rid of their kidney stones. [27] Out of those who had PCNL, none needed another procedure.

Another study compared people who had PCNL with people who had open surgery. [37] Open surgery is where a surgeon makes a cut in your skin and removes the stone directly from your kidneys. The two operations worked about as well as each other. But PCNL had fewer side effects.

  • About 16 in 100 people had side effects after PCNL.

  • About 38 in 100 people had side effects after open surgery.

People also recovered faster after PCNL. They were able to go home three and a half days sooner, and go back to work one and a half weeks sooner.

The side effects from PCNL can include: [27] [37]

  • Blockage in the bowel

  • Damage to the tissues around the kidney

  • Blood clotting in the kidney

  • Infection

  • Blood in your urine.

If you have PCNL, you will be given either:

A doctor will make a small cut in your back and pass a needle and a very thin tube into your kidney. The doctor will then put an instrument through the tube to remove the stone. [32]

You will probably have to stay in hospital for a few days after this operation. You should be able to go back to light activities after one to two weeks.


general anaesthetic

You may have a type of medicine called a general anaesthetic when you have surgery. It is given to make you unconscious so you don't feel pain when you have surgery.

local anaesthetic

A local anaesthetic is a painkiller that's used to numb one part of your body. You usually get local anaesthetics as injections.

randomised controlled trials

Randomised controlled trials are medical studies designed to test whether a treatment works. Patients are split into groups. One group is given the treatment being tested (for example, an antidepressant drug) while another group (called the comparison or control group) is given an alternative treatment. This could be a different type of drug or a dummy treatment (a placebo). Researchers then compare the effects of the different treatments.

For more terms related to Kidney stones


For references related to Kidney stones click here.
Last Updated: October 07, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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