Although kidney stones and other obstructions in the urinary tract are more common in men, women are twice as likely to develop infections related to the condition.

Research from 2011 showed a dramatic rise in the number of women developing kidney stones, due to an increase in bad habits, including smoking and drinking. Another report suggested that drinking iced tea can lead to painful kidney stones because of its high concentration of oxalate, one of the key chemicals that lead to the formation of kidney stones.

The current study, led by a team of experts at Henry Ford Hospital, also found considerably higher percentages of complications following one of two critical treatments for the effects of urolithiasis (stones in the kidneys and urinary tract).

Published in the journal European Urology, results showed that females are much more vulnerable to infection when they fall ill with urolithiasis. It also showed the prevalence of infection, including sepsis (a potentially fatal swelling throughout the body which started off as an infection), is on the rise.

On the other hand, the percentage of associated deaths remains fixed. The scientists believe this is because of “broad improvement in the management of sepsis and the critically ill.”

Jesse Sammon, DO, leading author and Urology Resident at Henry Ford’s Vattikuti Urology Institute, explained:

“The research study was conducted because the rate of infection related to urolithiasis was not known, and evidence was unclear about the best method for treating it.”

Data of almost 400,000 adult patients hospitalized with infected urolithiasis from 1999-2009 was gathered, and later analyzed, from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, the largest all-payer inpatient care database in the U.S. The team identified how frequently the subjects were treated with either of the two methods:

  • retrograde ureteral catheterization (RUC)- drains blocked urine, and reduces pressure on the kidney, by inserting a catheter through the ureter
  • percutaneous nephrostomy (PCN)- the patient’s back and kidney are pierced using a surgical tool

After 10 years of analysis, they found an increase in the prevalence of infected urolithiasis in females from 15.5 per 100,000, to 27.6, and in men, the increase was 7.7 per 100,000, to 12.1.

Related sepsis increased from 6.9% of urolithiasis patients to 8.5%, and severe sepsis rose from 1.7% to 3.2%.

Although increased rates of sepsis, severe sepsis, and prolonged hospital stays were found to be linked to PCN, the team noted that important variables needed for comparison have not yet been looked into.

Presumptions that might guide future treatment strategies would be speculative, the researchers explained, “demonstrating the pressing need for further study.”

Written by Sarah Glynn