• Health & Wellness

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Advances in minimally invasive kidney stone surgery

Most small kidney stones can pass on their own. However, kidney stones that are too large to pass on their own or cause bleeding, kidney damage or ongoing urinary tract infections may require surgical treatment. In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Aaron Potretzke, a Mayo Clinic urologist, explains some of the different surgical options for removing kidney stones.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:10) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

"Over the last several years, we have worked increasingly to make surgery even less invasive," says Dr. Potretzke.

He performs hundreds of kidney stone surgeries each year. One of the most common is a ureteroscopy. (ureeder-oscopy)

Aaron Potretzke, MD doing surgery, kidney stones
Dr. Aaron Potretzke performing a kidney stone surgery

Types of kidney stone surgeries

"We use a very small camera, about the size of a telephone cord, to go in through the urinary tract and visualize the stone, whether it be in the ureter or the kidney, or sometimes even in the bladder. And then we would break that stone up, if need be, usually with a laser, and then pick out the individual pieces," he says.

Another minimally invasive option is percutaneous surgery, which may be recommended to remove very large kidney stones.

"So we make a small incision, usually about the width of a finger, in someone's back, and then use larger instruments and cameras to look into the kidney and break up those stones," says Dr. Potretzke.

Dr. Potretzke says doctors at Mayo Clinic continue striving to make those incisions even smaller.

"And that actually ends up mattering because, while the incision on the outside is smaller, the actual amount of meat of the kidney that you're disrupting is quite a bit less. And therefore, we think that it, in many cases, may reduce the risk of complications, reduce the risk of pain and enhance recovery," Dr. Potretzke says.

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