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Kidney Stone Treatment For Astronauts Could Reduce Surgery

Passing a kidney stone can be one of the most painful experiences of a person’s life. According to a urologist at USC Urology, “many patients report it as the worst pain they have ever experienced.” The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) developed a non-surgical way to guide kidney stones for passage to avoid the risks of surgery. 

Surgery always carries some level of risk. Non-surgical treatments provide a good option for patients suffering from a number of diseases or ailments to relieve pain without undergoing the risk of infection, anesthesia problems, or having surgical instruments left in their body after surgery. 

In 2017, we wrote about a patient who went to a surgeon to have a kidney stone removed. The surgeon left a piece of wire inside the patient’s body after surgery. This required multiple follow-up surgeries and ended in removal of the patient’s kidney. Unfortunately for the patient, a lawsuit was filed after the statute of limitations had elapsed and the patient recovered nothing for the surgeon’s mistake that cost the patient pain, additional surgeries, and a kidney. 

Kidney Stone Symptoms

There are a few types of kidney stones, with the most common being calcium oxalate stones and uric acid stones. Calcium oxalate stones can be caused by inadequate calcium and not enough fluid intake. Uric acid stones can be associated with eating organ meats and certain shellfish. According to the National Kidney Foundation, Inc., symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Severe pain on one side of your lower back
  • Nagging stomach pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever and chills
  • Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy

Kidney Stone Treatment

Treatment for a kidney stone depends on a number of factors, including the size of the kidney stone, time the kidney stone has been blocking the kidneys, and other risk factors for the patient. Early detection of a kidney stone can be treated with medication and water. If the stone is too large and blocks the flow of urine or if there is a sign of infection, it may require surgery. 

Shock-wave lithotripsy is a noninvasive procedure that uses sound waves to break up the stones into fragments, which can more easily pass through urine. A ureteroscopy involves inserting an endoscope through the ureter to retrieve or break up the stone. In serious situations, a doctor can use percutaneous nephrolithotomy or nephrolithotripsy to remove large or complicated stones. 

Kidney Stone Treatment for Astronauts and Others

The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) looked at physical and medical issues involving space flight, including treating illnesses and complications for astronauts during their time in space. Together with researchers from the University of Washington, the team believed they developed a method of detecting “renal calculi,” or kidney stones, using modified diagnostic ultrasound equipment. 

Beyond detection, the researchers said they were able to use ultrasound to push stones in a certain direction. Placing kidney stones in the right place allows them to pass more easily through the urine. According to the research, “astronauts are at increased risk of stone development because of microgravity, dehydration, and altered bone metabolism.”

Prior to this research, there was no non-invasive technology to relocate or manipulate kidney stone fragments within the kidney, to improve the chance of passing through the urine. “For example, the chance of passing a stone from the lower pole of the kidney is approximately 35%, while the chance of passing a stone in the mid pole is over 80%.”

Surgical Malpractice

Any surgical procedure carries some inherent risk. Even surgery to remove kidney stones can carry a risk of surgical error, including infection, nerve damage, or leaving a foreign object behind inside the patient.  

If you or a loved one suffered an injury after a surgical error, talk to experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers. The skilled medical malpractice attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian fight to get compensation for injured patients. Contact our law office online or by calling (800) 529-6162.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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