Description Advantages Disadvantages
Watchful Waiting
  • Drinking plenty of fluids in the hope of washing stones out of the system.
  • Studies suggest that up to 95% of stones are capable of spontaneous passage within six weeks.
  • Occasionally, stones do not produce any symptoms. But while they may be "silent," they can be growing, even threatening irreversible damage to kidney function.


  • Uses highly focused impulses projected from outside the body to pulverize kidney stones anywhere in the urinary system.
  • The stone usually is reduced to sand-like granules that can be passed in the patient's urine.
  • A very safe treatment.
  • Does not damage surrounding body tissue - only breaks up the stone.
  • Recovery time is short - most people can resume normal activities in a few days.
  • Large stones may require several treatments.
  • Kidney must be functioning well with no blockage to the passage of stone fragments.
Holmium Laser
  • A small laser fiber is passed through a fiberoptic Instrument (ureteroscope) and brought into direct contact with the stone. Laser energy produces a shockwave effect which shatters the stone, allowing spontaneous passage or removal.
  • Removes stone almost 100% of the time.
  • Non-invasive in that there is no incision.
  • Outpatient procedure with rapid return to normal activity.
  • Safe with few complications.
  • Best used for stones in the mid and lower ureter where lithotripsy is only 80% successful in removing stones.
  • Usually requires placement of a stent for a short time post-op.
  • Requires general anesthesia.
Drug Therapy
  • Taking medications to counteract the condition causing the stone to form.
  • Treats the cause of the stone, not just the symptom.
  • Non-invasive.
  • Slow acting.
  • Side effects of pain medication include:

    • Constipation

    • Drowsiness

    • Nausea

    • Slowed breathing (respiration)

    • Vomiting
  • An incision or incisions are made and the stone is removed or shattered. If the latter, the pieces of the shattered stone are passed by the patient.
  • Once the stone is located, a small, basket-like device can be used to grasp smaller stones and remove them. Shattered stone are passed by the patient.
  • Reserved for cases where other approaches have failed.
  • Invasive and painful.
  • Possibility that the ureteral wall could be damaged or torn.
  • Chance of air or fluids forming around the lung if the access channel is made toward the upper portion of the kidney.
  • Possible injury to the bowel or the blood vessels within the kidney.
  • Requires hospitalization.