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Kidney stones: New treatment breaks down large stones

Kidney stones are shown in test tubes in this undated file photo.
September 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
One in 10 Americans will be affected by kidney stones. While most stones pass on their own, larger stones can be life-threatening. Now there's a new, non-invasive treatment that helps safely wipe out stones, even in extreme cases.

A sudden slip out of the shower one morning saved Stacy Cassell's life.

"If I wouldn't have fallen, we may never have found them," Cassell said.

Back pain from the fall sent her to the emergency room, but doctors found something much more serious - staghorn kidney stones. The stones were so big, that they nearly filled both kidneys.

"He's like, you know, 'If we didn't find these, you could have been dead by the end of the year,'" Cassell said.

Dr. Julio Davalos with Chesapeake Urology Associates says our bodies naturally flush out most kidney stones, but once they reach about the size of a raisin, they become hard to pass.

"So size matters when it comes to stones," Davalos said.

Cassell's stones were so large, surgery was her only option. Davalos used a new laser called the Lumenis VersaPulse on her stones. This enabled her to pass the stones on her own, lowering her risk of complications.

"I'm able to fragment the stone into minute pieces of grain, grains of sand and they can just sort of pass that out of the kidney," Davalos explained.

Since a special type of laser energy setting is used, there's a better chance that no other tissue is affected, saving Cassell's kidneys.

"I've had no trouble since then," she said.

Cassell's doctor told her she most likely got the stones because she doesn't keep herself hydrated.

The Lumenis VersaPulse laser can be used in advanced cases like Cassell's or to dust smaller stones. The minimally invasive treatment usually requires general anesthesia, but patients can go home the same day.


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