GLEN BURNIE, Md. - One in ten Americans will be affected by kidney stones at some point in their life and about a million patients will experience a kidney stone attack this year. While most stones will pass on their own, larger stones can be life-threatening. Now there is a new non-invasive treatment that can safely wipe out stones, even in extreme cases.
A sudden slip out of the shower one morning saved Stacy Cassell's life.
"It was by the grace of God that I fell. If I wouldn't have fallen, we may have never have found them," said Cassell.
Back pain from the fall sent her to the emergency room, but doctors found something much more serious, Staghorn kidney stones. Stones so big they nearly filled both kidneys.
"He [the doctor] was like if we didn't find these you could have been dead by the end of the year," Cassell explained.
Chesapeake Urologist Dr. Julio Davalos says our bodies naturally flush out most kidney stones, but once they reach about the size of a raisin they become hard to pass. Stacy's were so large, surgery was her only option.
Davalos used a new laser called lumenis versapulse on Stacy's stones. This enabled her to pass the stones on—her—own, lowering her risk of complications.
"This laser technology really helps in that manner in that I'm able to fragment the stone into minute grains of sand and that can just sort of pass out of the kidney and flush out," explained Davalos.
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 and giving her a second chance with her son and dog Kelly.
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.
Kidney stones are small, hard deposits that form inside your kidneys. The stones are made of mineral and acid salts. Passing kidney stones can be quite painful, but the stones usually cause no permanent damage. (Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com)
SYMPTOMS: A kidney stone may not cause symptoms until it moves around within your kidney or passes into your ureter. At that point, these signs and symptoms may occur:
- Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
- Pain that spreads to the lower abdomen and groin
- Pink, red or brown urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGH: There are many different types of lasers used in medicine. For kidney stone work, a PowerSuit holmium laser in direct contact with the stone is commonly used. This minimally-invasive treatment usually requires general anesthesia, but you may go home the same day. The doctor uses an endoscope in order to get close to the stone. A small fiber is snaked up the endoscope so that the tip can come in contact with the stone, the intense light energy breaks the stone into increasingly smaller pieces, which can be extracted or flushed out.
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