Laser Treatment for Kidney Stones
Laser Lithotripsy, sometimes abbreviated as FURSL or URS (flexible ureteroscopy and laser lithotripsy) is a minimally invasive medical procedure that uses laser beams (light pulses) to break down stones in the kidney or ureter. The procedure uses a ureteroscope which is a flexible fibre-optic scope with a camera and light that is inserted into the urinary tract to help the surgeon see the location of the stones inside the body. The stones are then broken down into small pieces, which are then passed out with urine in the following days after the procedure or are removed by the surgeon during the procedure.
Why You Might Need a Laser Lithotripsy Procedure
A laser Lithotripsy procedure is usually needed when kidney stones are confined anywhere within the urinary tract. Due to the size of the stuck stone, blockage might occur, which leads to urine being backed-up to the kidneys, and as a result causes severe pain to the patient.
The Laser Lithotripsy procedure uses optical fibers that carry light pulses which then pulverize the stone, making it possible to pass through the ureter.
Your doctor may recommend the procedure if other non-surgical kidney stone treatments are unsuccessful or if the stones are irregular in shape, are too large to pass through the ureter or they are causing harm to the adjacent tissue.
How Laser Lithotripsy Works
Prior to the Procedure
Before the procedure you will be given instructions regarding a fasting period. Like standard procedures requiring general anesthesia, you’ll need to fast for 6 hours prior to the procedure, and only sip clear fluid (water) from 2 hours prior. You may also undergo a number of tests, which include:
- Urine and blood tests
- Physical exam
- Imaging to help the doctor locate the stones for a definite diagnosis, and also to analyze the size and type of the stones
Additionally, you will need to tell your doctor about your medical history, if you are on any form of medication or supplements, as well as any allergies you might have.
During the Procedure
During the Laser Lithotripsy procedure, you will be under general anesthesia, which means you will be asleep throughout. The doctor uses the ureteroscope, which is a flexible tube with a camera and light that is inserted into the urinary tract tubes to help the surgeon see the location of the stones. This instrument enters into the urinary tract through the urethra and into the ureter where the stones are located.
An optical fiber, which carries light pulses (laser), is sent through the ureteroscope to the stone, where it pulverizes it by breaking it up into fine fragments. Majority of these stone fragments are removed during the procedure, while the remaining ones are passed out through urine in the following days or weeks.
Occasionally after the procedure, a stent may be placed in the ureter to improve the flow of urine, and to help eliminate the stone fragments through urination.
After the procedure, a follow-up check-up might be required to ensure that the kidney stones are resolved.
The Laser Lithotripsy procedure can take up to one hour.
After the Procedure
Post-procedure you may feel some degree of discomfort after the anesthesia wears off. This can be caused by spasm of the bladder and ureter. Also, if the surgeon placed a temporary stent to ease urine flow, you might also experience some discomfort. To alleviate any pain or discomfort, your doctor will prescribe pain medication. Additionally, antibiotics may be prescribed to minimize any risk of infection.
Since the procedure is minimally invasive and doesn’t require any form of incisions, it is treated as a day surgery procedure. This means that patients usually leave the hospital on the same day of the surgery, after which a full recovery may take up to two weeks.
Possible Risks and Complications of Laser Lithotripsy
Laser Lithotripsy is considered a fairly safe procedure with very minimal risks. However, it is important to call your doctor immediately if:
- The pain medications prescribed are not able to control the pain
- You are unable to urinate
- There is a large amount of blood in your urine
- You notice new symptoms, or the current symptoms get worse
- You have excessive bleeding
- You have a fever
- You are experiencing nausea and/or vomiting
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service, from initial consultation through to final diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Our team of expert of urologists and nurses are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you might have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.
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