Kidney Stones

A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in the urine when normal urine substances become highly concentrated.  These normal substances include calcium, oxalate, magnesium and phosphorus. Kidney stones grow in quick spurts or very slowly over time. Kidney stones can cause sudden and severe pain. 

The four main types of kidney stones are:

Calcium Stones 

These are the most common type of kidney stones.  They occur in two major forms − calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate.

Cystine Stones 

Result from a genetic disorder where cystine leaks through the kidneys into the urine. 

Uric Acid Stones 

Form when the urine has too much acid in it. A diet rich in animal proteins may contribute to this kind of stone.

Struvite Stones 

Form when someone has frequent urinary tract infections.

Risk factors are age, sex, race, family history of stones and long periods of dehydration.  Other risk factors are:

  • Decreased water intake
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Decreased activity level

A child may have a sudden, severe pain in the side of the body. The pain can spread out to the belly, groin or genitals. It may be so painful that the child is unable to find a comfortable position. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain with urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent / persistent urinary tract infection
  • Urinary urgency and/or frequency
  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Fever

The treatment for kidney stones depends on the size, what they are made of, and if they are causing symptoms or blocking the urinary tract.  Small stones will likely pass on their own without treatment, but will often require pain control and encouragement for your child to drink extra fluids to help the stone pass.  Larger stones or ones that block the urine flow may require surgery or hospitalization. 

See health topics on various methods of surgical management, including Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy, Ureteral Stent, Percutaneous Nephrolithotripsy and Nephrostomy Tube Procedure for Kidney Stones.

Managing Pain

Kidney stones can cause severe pain as they travel from the kidney into the ureter, the narrow tube that drains the urine from the kidneys into the bladder.  This pain, called renal colic, may cause nausea and vomiting. You can give your child Tylenol as directed for pain. Contact your doctor if your child does not get relief from the Tylenol.

The most important way to prevent kidney stones from forming is drinking a lot of fluids. This keeps the urine dilute, and stones are less likely to form.  Your doctor will also order a 24-hour urine collection that a special lab, Litholink, will evaluate to see what kind of stones your body is making.  From that evaluation the doctor can decide what medications or treatments you may need to help kidney stones from forming.

For more information, contact the Cincinnati Children’s Pediatric Stone Center at 513-803-7625.

Last Updated 12/2014