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How to Avoid Very Painful Kidney Stones


The CT scan confirmed what the doctor guessed: a 7 mm kidney stone at the top of the ureter, the tube that leads from the kidney down to the bladder.  A typical adult ureter is 3-4 mm in diameter, so you can see why having a rock lodged there hurts like you can’t believe. Worse, the blockage can lead to urinary tract infections; this is more than just extreme discomfort.

The ER gave me more painkillers, and prescribed Flomax, which relaxes the ureter so that it is a bit larger.  Small stones can sometimes pass as the ureter expands, but 7 mm?  Not likely -- at least not without a lot of time and a lot more painful episodes. The instructions on the discharge paperwork told me to make an appointment with a urologist the following day “without fail!” When I was in having surgery the following day, my wife ended up talking with the wife of another kidney stone sufferer who had delayed calling the urologist – the second visit to the ER in three days finally made him do so.

We are fortunate in Boise that we seem to have lots of doctors relative to the number of patients.  While I had to do a bit of calling around, I was able to get scheduled with a urologist Thursday afternoon – and by wild coincidence, the same urologist that treated my daughter’s kidney stone problem a few months before.

Dr. Spencer did the surgery Thursday evening at 6:40 PM.  The procedure is a bit horrifying to read about, but I am hoping that it will be an incentive to do what experts recommend to avoid kidney stones, so that you don’t have to go through this.  Dr. Spencer ran a stent through my penis, into my bladder, up the ureter to the kidney.  With the stent in place, he then inserted a tool (a very small tool) that let him examine the stone, then play Space Invaders inside my kidney, zapping the stone with a laser until it was nothing but tiny fragments that would pass easily.