Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) is recommended to treat kidney stones if the stone is too large or located in a place in the urinary tract that may not allow for effective extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) results. One advantage PCNL has over ESWL is that the stones are broken and removed in most cases at the time of the surgical procedure.

What can I expect from PCNL treatment?

  1. Patients have a tube called a nephrostomy tube inserted through a small incision in the flank and into the kidney to help drainage.
  2. The surgeon can use the small incision in the back to insert a fiberoptic telescope called a nephroscope. This allows the urologist to view the stone inside the kidney.
  3. Smaller stones can be grasped and removed. Larger stones may need to be broken up by an electrohydraulic or ultrasonic energy probe.
  4. The patient will need to stay in the hospital for several days with the nephrostomy tube in the back during healing.
  5. Once the nephrostomy tube is removed, the incision and kidney will heal in several days, and the patient can return to normal work and exercise usually within one week.

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