Kidney Stone Treatment, Management & Prevention

Find your care

Call 310-794-7700 to learn more about kidney stone treatment at UCLA Health.

Kidney Stone Treatment Options

What are the treatment options for kidney stones at UCLA?

When kidney stones don't pass by themselves, there are several surgical and medical treatment options. At UCLA's Stone Treatment Center – providing services at our Westwood, Santa Monica and Santa Clarita facilities – we offer state-of-the-art and minimally invasive care for kidney stones.

Surgical options include:

  • Non-invasive extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). ESWL involves the use of sound waves to crush the kidney stone into smaller pieces so they can more easily pass into the bladder.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL). PCNL uses a small hole and a tube inserted into the patient’s back to directly remove or break up larger kidney stones.
  • Ureteroscopy (URS). URS involves passing a fiberoptic camera up into the ureter and kidney without any incisions, allowing specialists to use delicate instruments to remove or break up smaller stones.
  • Pyelolithotomy. This procedure involves the removal of a stone from within the renal pelvis or from the ureter, and can be done as an open or laparoscopic procedure.

Medical management is available to aid in the passing of some stones and for ongoing kidney stone management of stones. One type of medication, known as alpha blockers, can be prescribed to help pass certain kidney stones by relaxing the muscles in the ureter. Other medications include oral alkalinization used to increase urine pH for uric stones and hypercalciuria for calcium stones.

As kidney stones have a rate of recurrence of up to 50% at five years, surveillance with imaging modalities is necessary to ensure treatment success or to guide further changes to the treatment plan.

UCLA's Stone Treatment Center has state-of-the-art operating rooms that are equipped with the latest technology including ultra-thin flexible and rigid ureteroscopes, high depth digital imaging, and a variety of lasers including Greenlight PVP. UCLA’s urologists are fellowship-trained and perform high volume weekly caseloads. As a result, UCLA has a reputation for successful management of difficult stones, and many of our patients are able to go home within an hour or two after surgery. 

Kidney Stone Prevention

Are there prevention programs for kidney stones?

UCLA's Stone Treatment Center concentrates not only on kidney stone treatment, but also on prevention once the initial stone is removed. At UCLA we have a commitment to 24-hour urines and metabolic work-up to prevent future recurrences.  We also provide dietary counseling for appropriate diet and nutrition planning to prevent a recurrence of kidney stones.

One of the best preventative measures against kidney stones is proper fluid intake. It is recommended that you drink at least eight glasses or three liters of water each day in order to pass about 2.6 quarts (2.5 liters) of urine daily. Other general diet and prevention recommendations include:

  • Moderate calcium (1000-1200 mg/day)
  • Low sodium (less than 2300 mg of salt/day)
  • Low refined sugar (less than 100 g/day)
  • Decrease oxalate (40-50 mg/day of foods such as beets, spinach, sweet potatoes)
  • Decrease intake of animal protein (1 serving/day)
  • Increase citrate (lemons and limes)
  • Increase intake of fruits and veggies
  • Increase dietary insoluble fiber (18-22 g/day of foods such as whole grains and nuts)
  • Magnesium supplement (for calcium stones)
  • Potassium supplement (for uric acid and cystine stones)

All treatment and prevention recommendations will be determined on an individual basis by our kidney stone management team.

What to Do if You Have an Active Kidney Stone

UCLA Urologist and kidney stone specialist Dr. Kymora Scotland talks about the symptoms of kidney stones, how to identify active kidney stone pain, how to manage your kidney stone at home, and when to contact a doctor.