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Kidney stones

Kidney stones in children 

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones form when minerals and other substances come together in the urinary tract and make a hard stone or pebble. Kidney stones vary in shapes and sizes and can even be made from different substances, including calcium deposits, uric acid, cystine (an amino acid) or struvite (a type of mineral). The kidneys filter waste products from the blood. When these waste products do not dissolve completely, they become concentrated in the urine and form crystals. These crystals may accumulate and form kidney stones (nephrolithiasis).

Our nationally ranked nephrology team and urology teams are a leader in kidney care for kids. We’ll get to the bottom of what’s causing your child’s kidney stones and offer several therapies to treat the condition. Most importantly, we’ll work together to create a plan that helps prevent kidney stones from developing again. 

Are kidney stones common in children? 

Kidney stones aren’t all that common in children, but there has been an increase in the condition among children, teens and even infants over the past few years. Scientists aren’t completely sure why kidney stones occur more often, but it may be because of a change in dietary habits. 

Signs of kidney stones 

Small kidney stones may not cause any symptoms and pass through the urinary tract on their own. Larger kidney stones can cause painful signs, including:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the back or side (pain is often sudden and severe)
  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Pain that spreads through the groin as kidney stone travels down the urinary tract 

Causes of kidney stones 

A kidney stone can be caused by several factors, including certain conditions and medications, lifestyle and diet, and family history.  

Conditions that may put your child at higher risk of developing kidney stones include: 

Kidney stones can also be caused by unhealthy choices, like: 

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Drinking too many soft drinks or caffeinated beverages
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Eating too much sodium (salt) in your diet 

Testing and diagnosing kidney stones

Types of imaging used to evaluate for kidney stones include x-ray, ultrasound and CT scan depending on symptoms. These are painless tests that take pictures of the kidneys and surrounding areas. Often kidney stones do not cause any symptoms and may be found during other routine medical tests.

Treatment will depend on the size of the stone, the location of the stone and the severity of symptoms. Most small stones will pass out of the body in urine on their own with adequate fluid intake and medication.

Surgery may be considered if:

  • The stone is too large to pass on its own
  • The stone is causing a blockage
  • Your child is experiencing symptoms of fever, constant pain or ongoing urinary tract infections

There are several different procedures to treat kidney stones. Our joint renal care team will determine which option is best for your child based on their individual needs.

What can you do about kidney stones? 

Your child’s doctor will do a complete examination to diagnose kidney stones. Once the condition is confirmed, there are several options for treatment in our joint renal stone clinic, which combines expertise from our nephrology and urology team.

Your doctor will discuss which approach is best for your child, based on the severity of their pain and any pre-existing conditions. That plan may include: 

  • Drinking lots of water to help flush the stone out of the urinary tract 
  • Lithotripsy, which is a procedure that uses sound waves to break up the kidney stone 
  • Medicine to relieve pain while the body works to remove the kidney stone 
  • Minimally invasive procedures, like using a scope to remove the stone from the urinary tract 
  • Oral medication to help break down the stone and help it pass 

Once your child passes their kidney stone, your care team will work with you to create a plan that helps reduce the risk of stones from developing again. You may need to follow up with a kidney specialist.  

Preventing kidney stones

After having a kidney stone, there is a high likelihood of developing another stone within the next five years. Additional testing may be done to evaluate the urine and blood to determine ways to prevent kidney stones from forming.

Increased fluid intake, changes in diet and possibly medications may be recommended to help prevent the development of more kidney stones in the future.

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