Kidney Stones - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Kidney Stones - Medical Malpractice

Kidney stones develop within the urinary system and are hard crystals of natural materials that can block the ureters or grow large enough to block the outflow of urine from the entire kidney. They are most often unilateral but can be bilateral in severe situations. Kidney stones are also known as renal calculi and the condition you get when you have kidney stones is called nephrolithiasis. You can get them in the renal calyx or in the ureters or bladder. Most kidney stones are small but some can get quite large.

Those at risk for kidney stones include people who are taking certain medications and those who have an elevated calcium or uric acid in their system. About one out of ten people in the US will get a kidney stone at some point in their lives and the most common age group that gets kidney stones include those who are 20 to 49 years old. Some people develop many attacks of kidney stones, usually beginning in their teens or twenties. Kidney stones are more common in developed countries, while in developing countries, bladder stones are more common. This is believed to be related to dietary differences. Men get kidney stones about three times more often than women, particularly in their 40s to 70s. It is rare to get a kidney stone past the age of 80 unless it is a case of recurrent kidney stones. Family history for kidney stones makes one more liable to get kidney stones as well. Kidney stones are more common in Caucasian individuals and Asians, and less common in African Americans and Native Americans. Those with high uric acid in their blood from gout have a higher risk of getting uric acid stones. Calcium oxalate stones come from elevated calcium in the bloodstream and a diet high in oxalates.

A family history of kidney stones is also a risk factor for developing kidney stones. Kidney stones are more common in Asians and Caucasians than in Native Americans, Africans, or African Americans.

Uric acid kidney stones are more common in people with chronically elevated uric acid levels in their blood. About one in 1500-3000 pregnancies result in kidney stones related to the hormones of pregnancy. Drinking plenty of fluids can lessen the chance of pregnancy-related kidney stones.

The causes of kidney stones include low urine volume from dehydration or from an excess of stone-forming agents in the urinary tract. The most common type of kidney stone is a calcium oxalate stone or calcium phosphate stone. It shows up on x-ray easily and it usually occurs when too much calcium is excreted into the urine. Uric acid stones and amino acid stones are less common but always possible, especially if a person suffers from gout and gets dehydrated.

Dehydration can result from low fluid intake or from strenuous exercise without adequate replacement of fluids lost during exercise. If the urinary flow is blocked by something, stones can form. People who live in hot and dry climates are more likely to get kidney stones. An infection in the urinary tract can form stones in the kidneys.

Certain medical conditions predispose a person to getting kidney stones. These include gout (which leads to uric acid elevations in the urine), hypercalciuria (elevations of calcium in the bloodstream), hyperparathyroidism, kidney diseases and some metabolic conditions, which are often hereditary. Diabetes and high blood pressure are linked to getting kidney stones. Those who have had an intestinal bypass surgery or who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease can get kidney stones at a higher rate than normal people. Medications that can lead to kidney stones include certain diuretic medications and calcium-containing antacids. Protease inhibitors can cause kidney stones.

Kidney stones are diagnosed via a complete history and physical examination. The main symptoms include pain in the flank area associated with radiation to the groin area. There is often blood in the urine. The pain is colicky and often very severe. A plain film of the abdomen can show where there is a stone, especially if there is calcium in the stone. In some cases, an IVP is done, which is also called an intravenous pyelogram. It involves putting dye into the veins that quickly goes to the kidneys and urinary system, showing areas of narrowing or blockage of the ureters. A helical CT scan can also show kidney stones in the kidney or the rest of the urinary tract system. Helical CT scans are felt to be superior in showing kidney stones when compared to IVP examinations. An ultrasound can show a kidney stone in a pregnant woman who doesn't want x-ray exposure.

Most kidney stones pass on their own with time because they are small enough to push through the system, especially when fluids are increased and medications are used to increase urinary output. Medications can be given to control pain in the meantime and medications for nausea and vomiting are also available. If there is a stag horn calculus (one that encompasses the entire inside of the kidney) or a very big stone, then ultrasound technology can be used to blast the stones into smaller pieces. This is known as lithotripsy and it does a good job of breaking up stones that are 10 mm or larger.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here