A doctor may recommend kidney stone surgery if the stones are stuck in the ureters or if they are particularly large. The ureters are the tubes that connect the kidney to the bladder.

There are several types of kidney stone surgery. They include percutaneous nephrolithotomy and nephrolithotripsy, ureteroscopy, shockwave lithotripsy, and open surgery.

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of kidney stone surgeries.

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A urologist will recommend kidney stone surgery if the kidney stones are:

  • very large
  • causing pain
  • stuck in the ureters

In some cases, a person will need urgent treatment, especially if they are dehydrated and vomiting.

A doctor may recommend these surgeries for people with large or irregularly shaped kidney stones.

Both surgeries begin after a person receives general anesthetic. To access the kidney, a surgeon makes a small incision in the back and inserts a nephroscope, which is a small fiber-optic camera.

If the surgeon removes the kidney stone through a tube, they are performing a nephrolithotomy procedure.

A nephrolithotripsy procedure, on the other hand, involves breaking down the kidney stones with sound waves and removing the fragments with a suction device.


Although the procedure takes only about 20–45 minutes to complete, a person should expect to be in the hospital for 2–3 days. They will likely need to take 1 week off work.


Complications of percutaneous nephrolithotomy and nephrolithotripsy include:

During a ureteroscopy, a doctor passes a small telescope called ureteroscope through the urethra and bladder until it reaches the kidney stone.

The ureteroscope contains a laser fiber that breaks the stone into fragments. This procedure is best for removing smaller kidney stones.

As a precaution, a doctor will place a stent in the ureter to help a person pass urine if they experience swelling.


People should expect to stay in the hospital overnight after this procedure.


Complications of ureteroscopy include:

  • infection
  • fever
  • leftover stone fragments
  • ureteral stricture
  • ureteral injury

Shockwave lithotripsy is usually an outpatient procedure, during which a surgeon uses sound waves and X-rays to find and break down kidney stones.

A person will receive general anesthesia or sedation before the procedure begins.

If the surgeon cannot extract all the kidney stones, a person may need additional surgeries, which could include a ureteroscopy.


This procedure is not invasive, and therefore a person can expect to get back to their normal activities within 2 days.

After surgery, a person should drink plenty of water to help the stones or stone fragments pass.


Shockwave lithotripsy can lead to complications such as kidney injury and stones not breaking down and requiring additional treatments.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, there may also be a risk of developing high blood pressure or diabetes with this treatment.

Doctors only recommend open surgery if they cannot remove kidney stones using other techniques.

During this procedure, a person receives general anesthetic. To begin, a surgeon makes an incision on the side and opens the kidney and ureter. They then locate and remove the stone.

Before stitching up, they will add a drain to ensure urine does not enter the wound. They will also insert a stent into the ureter.


After this procedure, a person can expect to spend several days in the hospital.


Complications of open surgery include:

Drinking plenty of water is the best action a person can take to prevent kidney stones.

However, there are other preventive measures, depending on the type of kidney stone a person keeps having:

Calcium oxalate stones

To prevent oxalate stones, a person should reduce or avoid consumption of these foods:

They should also avoid foods high in sodium and reduce the amount of animal protein they consume.

In addition, it is advisable to consider increasing calcium intake. For example, a person can increase their consumption of fortified foods, such as cereals and bread.

Calcium phosphate stones

Consuming foods that are low in sodium is an effective way to reduce the likelihood of developing this type of stone.

Other dietary strategies for reducing risk include limiting animal protein and increasing calcium intake.

Uric acid stones

To prevent uric acid stones, a person should reduce the amount of animal protein they consume.

To ensure they are still getting enough protein, they may want to switch to plant-based sources, such as legumes and soy foods.

If individuals are concerned about reducing their animal protein intake, they should seek guidance from a doctor or nutritionist, who can help them make healthy substitutions.

Reaching or maintaining a moderate body weight will also reduce the risk of uric acid stones recurring.

Cystine stones

Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water throughout the day should be enough to prevent this type of kidney stone from developing.

There are four main types of kidney surgery: percutaneous nephrolithotomy and nephrolithotripsy, ureteroscopy, shockwave lithotripsy, and open surgery.

Doctors only recommend open surgery when all other procedures are not suitable.

Open surgery is the most invasive type of kidney stone surgery. With it, a person can expect a much longer recovery time in comparison with, for example, a ureteroscopy.

To prevent kidney stones from developing, a person should drink plenty of water. Depending on the type of kidney stone, they may also have to make dietary changes, such as reducing their intake of animal protein.