“I had no idea that kids could get kidney stones.” This is something I hear frequently from parents whose children present with their first kidney stone to the urology clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. While kidney stones are much more common in adults, both babies and children can and do get kidney stones. Kidney stones in childhood are becoming more frequent than they used to be, and boys are slightly more at risk to get stones than girls.
What Are Kidney Stones?
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.
Kidney stones may result in severe pain in the abdomen or the side. Other common symptoms of kidney stones include blood in the urine (visible or microscopic), nausea and vomiting, discomfort while urinating or frequent urination. 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:
High levels of salt intake or other dietary factors
Chronic urinary tract infection
Abnormal urinary tract anatomy
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.
How Will My Child’s Kidney Stones be Treated?
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, my pediatric urology colleagues and I 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.
In cooperation with the pediatric nephrologists (kidney doctors) at Nationwide Children’s, we are the best place in central Ohio and beyond to care for any child with kidney stones.
Seth Alpert, MD is an attending surgeon in the Section of Urology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Clinical Associate Professor of Urology at The Ohio State University Medical Center.
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