Kidney Stones

Kidney Stones

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Kidney stones benefit from prompt diagnosis and treatment because they can increase your risk of chronic kidney disease. Duke urologists use advanced technology to diagnose your type of kidney stone, determine its cause, and identify any conditions -- obesity, diabetes, or osteoporosis -- that require treatment to prevent kidney stones from recurring. Our goal is to quickly return you to a pain-free life and minimize your risk for kidney-related problems in the future.

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Kidney stones do not always require surgery. If a kidney stone is relatively small and not causing pain, you may naturally pass kidney stones with help from medication and guidance from your urologist. However, if surgery is necessary, you can be confident in our experience because our urologists helped develop the minimally invasive techniques now considered the gold standard for kidney stone removal. 


Depending on the type of kidney stone, your urologist may recommend a medication to help your body pass the stone or prevent future stones. 

Shock Wave Lithotripsy

A soft, water-filled cushion is placed on your back, behind the kidney stone. Shock waves pass through the skin to break the kidney stones into smaller, dust-like pieces which pass out of the kidney in urine.


During this outpatient procedure, a small scope with a camera on its tip is inserted in the ureter. It allows your doctor to look for the stones. A laser may be used to break the stones into small pieces, which are then removed. Our doctors perform close to 400 ureteroscopic procedures every year, which places our volume in the top five percent of kidney stone treatment centers.

Large Kidney Stones Removal

If your kidney stone is two centimeters, about the size of a marble, or larger, you may require a procedure called percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Your surgeon inserts a tube with a camera at its end through one small incision in your back. The camera lets doctor view the kidney stone. A special instrument will be used to break up the kidney stone into smaller pieces, which are then removed. Most people stay in the hospital overnight and leave stone-free.

Minimally Invasive Surgery for Complicated Cases

When appropriate, kidney stones may be removed using robotic surgery or laparoscopically through several small incisions. These procedures are typically reserved for people with very complex kidney stones, for people with kidneys in abnormal positions, or for people with existing kidney-related health conditions. 

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


Urine Collection and Analysis

24-hour, at-home urine collection allows your urologist to determine the cause of your kidney stones and recommend appropriate treatments. The results can also guide our recommendations for dietary changes and medications to help prevent future occurrences.

Digital Tomosynthesis

Digital tomosynthesis is a new technology that creates multiple X-rays from a single X-ray test. It allows radiologists to view kidney stones in more detail than a traditional X-ray. Low dose CT scans may also be used. This type of CT is used specifically for the diagnosis of kidney stones, and helps reduce radiation exposure.

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Why Choose Duke

Kidney Stone Prevention
If you are at risk for recurrent kidney stones, our urologists work closely with you to identify their cause, and educate you about preventive treatment options, including dietary changes and medications.

Comprehensive Care
Our comprehensive approach to kidney stone treatment reduces the likelihood that you will experience complications following your procedure. If complications occur, we offer fast access to expert care to treat your symptoms.

A Team of Kidney Stone Specialists
Your team includes urologists, anesthesiologists and radiologists who work together to give you the best possible treatment. Because of our combined skills and access to the latest technology and facilities, we often treat patients who are turned away by other centers that may not be equipped to remove kidney stones due to their size or location.

Leaders in Kidney Stone Research and Treatment
We were one of the first centers to test the laser technology that is commonly used to break down kidney stones, and we continue to be at the forefront of designing and developing safer, more effective methods for kidney stone removal. As a result, you have access to the latest advances in treatment, often before they become available at other centers.

Duke University Hospital is nationally ranked in 10 adult specialties
Best Hospital for Urology in North Carolina
When it comes to your care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital's nationally ranked urology program was named best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.