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Endourology and Stone Disease

Both men and women can get stones or blockages in their kidneys, ureters, or bladder.

Most small stones will pass on their own and while they travel down the urinary system you might require pain medication to help with associated discomfort. You might be prescribed additional medications to help relax the ureter and promote quicker passage of the stone. Other times, surgery might be necessary to solve the problem.  

If your doctor has diagnosed you with kidney, ureter or bladder stones, you may want to meet with an endourologist.

The endourology experts in the UPMC Urology Department use minimally invasive techniques to treat simple and complex stone diseases.

They also use minimally invasive techniques to treat tumors of the lining of the kidney and ureter as well as correct problems in the kidneys and ureters present since birth or acquired later in life, such as obstruction of the junction between the kidney and ureter (UPJ obstruction).

What Is Endourology?

Endourology refers to a subspecialty in urology where minimally invasive techniques are used to inspect the urinary tract and perform surgery. A surgeon with special training feeds tiny cameras and surgical tools through a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope. He or she inserts the scope into natural openings in the body, such as the urethra.

Most treatments are outpatient, meaning you can avoid a hospital stay. In select cases involving complex stone disease your surgeon may suggest percutaneous removal of the stone. Most patients stay overnight after this procedure.  

Because these procedures involve no or very small incisions, you're less likely to scar or get an infection. You'll also heal faster than with open surgeries.

Endourology procedures treat a range of conditions:

Your UPMC endourologist will propose the best treatment for your condition, likely based on the location of the stones, tumor, or blockage.

Endourology Services at UPMC

Our team performs a range of procedures to treat urologic conditions:

  • Urethroscopy — clears stones or scar tissue from the urethra.
  • Cystoscopy — removes stones or tumors from the bladder.
  • Ureteroscopy — breaks up and removes stones, tumors, or scar tissue in the ureter.
  • Nephroscopy — treats tumors within the lining of the kidney or stones within the kidney.

When needed, we also use other methods to treat stone disease:

  • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). ESWL makes shock waves outside the body and sends them through the skin to the kidney stones. This breaks down the stones into sand-like particles that leave the body when you urinate.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy. This treatment is a bit more invasive than those using an endoscope. The surgeon makes a small cut in the back to insert a sheath — or tube — into the kidney to create a path. The surgeon then inserts tools to break down large kidney stones and removes them through the tube.

Why Choose UPMC for Urologic Care?

The UPMC Department of Urology:

  • Has nationally renowned experts in minimally invasive surgery. In many cases, our surgeons developed or refined the techniques.
  • Uses the latest diagnostic and treatment options for all types of urologic diseases and provide specialized care for specific conditions.
  • Works with you before and after any treatment to make sure you get the best care possible.
  • Has many locations throughout Pittsburgh, bringing expert care close to you.

Insurance Plans We Accept

UPMC accepts most insurance.

Some procedures may need prior approval, so check with your health plan before you make an appointment.

Contact Us for Stone Disease Care

For relief of kidney and urinary stone disorders, or to learn about treatments, make an appointment with the UPMC Department of Urology.