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Kidney Stones Health Center

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Open Surgery for Kidney Stones

In open surgery to remove kidney stones, the surgeon uses an incision in the person's abdomen or side to reach the kidney and remove the stones. He or she then puts a small tube (catheter) near the kidney to drain urine until the kidney heals.

What To Expect After Surgery

You will be in the hospital for 6 to 9 days. You are usually able to resume your normal activities within 4 to 6 weeks.

Why It Is Done

Open surgery is rarely needed to remove kidney stones. You may need it if:

  • You have large stones caused by an infection (staghorn calculi).
  • You were born with an abnormality in your urinary system camera.gif that affects urine flow in the kidneys, ureters, or bladder.
  • Other treatment methods have failed to remove or dissolve the stone.

How Well It Works

Depending on the location of the kidney stone, open surgery usually can completely remove the stone.


The risks of open surgery to remove a kidney stone include:

  • Severe bleeding.
  • Infection.
  • Risks linked with anesthesia.
  • An increased risk of getting a hernia where the cut was made for surgery.

There also is the risk that the kidney may be severely damaged by the open surgery and may have to be removed.

What To Think About

During recovery at home, call your surgeon immediately if you have:

  • Sudden pain.
  • Fever.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Signs of infection, such as swelling or redness around the incision.

The use of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), percutaneous nephrolithotripsy, and ureteroscopy to remove kidney stones has nearly eliminated the need for open surgery to remove stones.

The recovery time following open surgery is much longer than the recovery time for the treatments listed above.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerTushar J. Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology

Current as ofNovember 14, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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