Stones in the urinary tract form in the kidneys when small particles, which are usually dissolved in the urine, become oversaturated and begin to form small crystals. These small crystals can continue to grow into larger solid crystals, which resemble sand, gravel or small rocks.
These stones can grow over time like (rough-edged) pearls in an oyster and can move with the flow of urine from the kidney into the ureter, which is the smaller tube that carries the urine from the kidney down to the bladder. When a stone gets stuck in this tube, it can cause the urine to back up behind it, causing swelling of the tube and kidney.
Some stones cause no symptoms at all and are discovered by accident on an X-ray or ultrasound that is being done for some other reason.
Stones can have many different causes. Some of the most common causes are:
Metabolic evaluation with urine and blood testing can be done, especially in children, to try to help determine the causes of the kidney stones. Knowing what led to the stones can also help guide medical treatment and prevent kidney stones from returning.
Some smaller stones in the kidney and ureter may pass in the urine just by drinking more fluids and taking certain medications, but other stones may need to be broken up and removed by surgery.
At Nationwide Children’s, our pediatric urologists have undergone several years of additional training in all forms of stone removal surgery for children and adolescents. This includes shock wave procedures and other minimally invasive techniques with the latest and most advanced surgical equipment for stone surgery, including specialized pediatric-sized telescopes and laser technology for removing kidney stones.