What is involved in bladder stone removal?

A cut of a female body showing the bladder in dark pink.

Bladder stones are masses of crystallized minerals or other materials that sometimes form in the bladder. Bladder stone removal can usually be as simple as increasing your fluid intake, although it can be much more complicated in other situations. A procedure known as a cystoscopy is a common method of removing bladder stones. In some cases, bladder stone removal requires open surgery and a few days in the hospital for further monitoring.

The human urinary tract, including the bladder in pink at the bottom.

Bladder stones that are small and not causing an obstruction or bothersome symptoms may not need medical treatment. In these cases, it is usually appropriate to wait for the body to naturally remove the stone in the bladder. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, can help remove stones faster than they would otherwise. If bothersome symptoms such as pain, fever, or blood in the urine occur, a doctor should be consulted for further evaluation.

While examining the urinary system with the cystoscope, the doctor may break up the stones using a laser or ultrasound.

Cystoscopy is a routine procedure for removing bladder stones. Cystoscopy involves inserting a small tube into the bladder through the urethra. A small camera, known as a cystoscope, is then used to locate the stone. If necessary, the stone can be broken into smaller segments during this procedure and then removed from the body. Cystoscopy is typically completed in less than half an hour and is often performed as an outpatient procedure, although some doctors may want to keep the patient hospitalized overnight for further observation.

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In some cases, bladder stone removal requires open surgery and a few days in the hospital.

Lithotripsy is a medical procedure that is sometimes used as a form of bladder stone removal. During this procedure, local anesthetic medications are often given to help reduce or eliminate pain or discomfort related to lithotripsy surgery. Sound waves are used to break stones into smaller pieces so they are more likely to be passed into the urine.

Individuals with bladder stones are at increased risk of developing bladder cancer.

In situations where the stones are particularly large or if there is a blockage, a more invasive type of bladder stone removal surgery may be necessary. In open surgery, the patient is completely sedated with general anesthesia and an incision is made in the abdominal wall to allow the surgeon access to the stone. After the stone is removed, the incision is closed and the patient is monitored for possible signs of infection or other complications. You may need to spend a few days in the hospital after the open surgery, and recovery may take several weeks.

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