Kidney Stones in Children

Expert Care for Children with Kidney Stones

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Kidney stones are not common in children, but when they occur and are painful, your child will need a comprehensive evaluation and effective treatment. Our pediatric urologists work closely with kidney doctors (nephrologists) and endocrinologists to find the cause of your child’s stones and start treatment to relieve discomfort as quickly as possible. We also offer dietary recommendations to prevent new kidney stones from forming. 

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Symptoms of Kidney Stones in Children

Discomfort from kidney stones can appear in many ways. Your child may need to see a pediatric urologist if they experience:

  • Pain in their abdomen or groin
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Blood in their urine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Diagnosing Kidney Stones in Children

Kidney stones can run in families. Understanding your family’s medical history can help us diagnose your child. We may perform one or more the following tests to determine the best treatment for your child.

Blood and Urine Tests

These tests check your child’s blood and urine to find out why a stone developed and how to prevent kidney stones in the future. If performed in a clinic, we may get results from these tests within three days. Your doctor may ask you to collect your child’s urine at home over 24 hours using a special kit that can be mailed back. It typically takes about a month for the results of a urine test when the kit is mailed in.

Ultrasound

Ultrasounds (also known as sonograms) use sound waves to create images that help us look for kidney stones in your child’s kidneys, ureters, and bladder. It’s a painless, outpatient exam performed by a doctor or technician. It does not expose your child to radiation.

Collecting Stones at Home

If your child passes a stone between doctor visits, try to collect it, save it in a jar or plastic bag at room temperature, and bring it to your next visit. The stone can be analyzed to learn its chemical make-up. This information can be used to determine why your child formed a stone and how to prevent them in the future.

Treating Kidney Stones in Children

Many children can pass kidney stones without medical help. Sometimes drinking more water and taking medicine is enough to pass kidney stones within a few days. If an infection is the cause, the stones are large, or the stones are causing extreme discomfort, more treatment may be recommended to remove the stones or reduce their size so they can be passed.

Extracorporeal Shock-Wave Lithotripsy

This noninvasive, outpatient procedure uses shock waves to break kidney stones into tiny pieces so they can more easily pass out of your child’s body in their urine. An instrument is placed on your child’s abdomen or back to send shock waves to the precise location of the stones. Sedation or full anesthesia may be needed because the shock waves cause temporary discomfort. Your child will go home the day of the procedure and may feel some discomfort. It is normal to see small amounts of blood in their urine in the first days after the procedure.

Ureteroscopy

For this outpatient surgical procedure, your child will be asleep under full anesthesia. A small, thin tube is inserted in your child’s urinary tract and used to locate and remove the stone. We use a special ureteroscope designed for a child’s smaller body, decreasing the risk of injury.

If your child’s anatomy does not allow the ureteroscope to reach the stone or if there is an active urinary tract infection, your urologist may place a small plastic tube, called a stent, from the kidney to the bladder. This allows your child’s ureter to open up, helps them pass urine, and aids in clearing the infection. If this is done, your child will have a follow-up procedure to remove the stone.

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy

Large kidney stones may be removed through a minimally invasive procedure, which is performed with your child under full anesthesia. A small incision is made in your child’s back, and a flexible tube is inserted through cut to remove the stone. Your child may stay in the hospital for one night following this procedure.

Preventing Future Kidney Stones

Once your child has a kidney stone, there’s an increased chance stones may return. Your child’s care will be managed by a pediatric nephrologist and dietitian. They may recommend your child drink more water and track their fluid consumption. They can also recommend medications or dietary changes to reduce the likelihood that kidney stones will return.

Best Children's Hospital in NC

Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties.

Why Choose Duke

A Team of Specialists
We work closely with pediatric experts throughout Duke and coordinate our efforts to make getting care more convenient for you. Whenever possible, your child will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists in a single visit. This comprehensive care has earned us national recognition.

If Your Child Needs Surgery
You can feel confident in your child’s treatment at Duke Children’s. We are one of only a few hospitals in the U.S. verified as a Level 1 children's surgery center by the American College of Surgeons. This Level 1 designation recognizes our commitment to providing the safest and highest-quality surgical care to our young patients.

This page was medically reviewed on 09/03/2020 by