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Facts About Staghorn Kidney Stones

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Small crystals formed in the kidney. The most common crystals are made of calcium oxalate and they are generally 4–5 mm.

Small crystals formed in the kidney. The most common crystals are made of calcium oxalate and they are generally 4–5 mm.

Kidney Function

We are all born with two kidneys, located in the upper abdomen, just under the rib cage. They're each about the size of your fist. The kidneys perform many vital and complex functions, including:

  • Removing waste and excel fluid
  • Controlling the red blood cell production
  • Filtering the blood, keeping some compounds while removing other
  • Releasing hormones that help to regulate blood pressure
  • Helping to regulate particular nutrients in the body, like potassium

Statistics for Kidney Stones

Kidney stones (also called renal calculi, nephrolithiasis, or urolithiasis) are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys. It takes up more than one branch of the collecting system in the renal pelvis of the kidney. A stone that is larger than five millimeters (0.2 in) causes blockage of the ureter, and it is very painful.

Kidney stones are also classified according to their location, such as: “nephrolithiasis (in the kidney), ureterolithiasis (in the ureter), cystilithiaiss (in the bladder), or by what they are made of (calcium oxalate, uric acid, struvite, cystine)."

Globally, anywhere between 1% to 15%, are affected by kidney stones at some time in their lives. In 2015, there were 22.1 million cases that resulted in approximately 16,000 deaths. There has been an increase in the number of people affected in the Western world since the 1970s. Men are more often affected than women. Descriptions of surgeries to remove these stones date as far back as early as 600 BC.

Kidney diagram

Kidney diagram

Risk Factors

Genetics and environmental factors are typically the cause of kidney stones. The majority of kidney stones form when the urine has a high concentration of minerals. causing the stones. Other possible causes include:

  • Dehydration
  • Obesity
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Repeated urinary tract infection
  • Particular diets, high in protein, sugar, and especially salt

Kidney stones do not cause symptoms until they move within the kidney or into the ureters, which are the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. When the flow of urine is stopped due to a lodged stone it is very painful. You may experience the following symptoms:

Staghorn kidney stones

Staghorn kidney stones

Staghorn Kidney Stone Facts

A staghorn kidney stone is a large stone that takes up more than just one branch of the collecting system in the renal pelvis. The stone is typically made of struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate) and/or calcium carbonate apatite. Women with recurrent urinary tract infections can be more prone to getting staghorn kidney stones.

If this type of stone is left untreated over time it can destroy the kidney and/or cause a life-threatening infection (sepsis). It is important to completely remove this stone to relieve any obstruction, eradicate the infection, and prevent further stone growth.

Typically, the remedy is PCNL or SWL, and sometimes both procedures may be used. A less common option is an invasive open or laparoscopic/robotic-assisted stone surgery is used.

Lots of research on kidneys and kidney stones exist online.

Kidney Stone Solutions

There's nothing to fix if the stone causes no symptoms. Pain control is typically the first priority for symptomatic patients, so nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories or opioids are ordered. Tamsulosin (Flomax) may be ordered to help the patient pass larger stones.

Kidney stones may be eliminated using extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, ureteroscopy, or percutaneous nephrolithotomy. The stones are usually a mixture of magnesium ammonium phosphate (struvite) and calcium carbonate apatite. These minerals are associated with urinary tract infections. If surgery is necessary minimally invasive procedures are used, such as:

  1. Cystolithopaxy: a cystoscope is inserted into the bladder to locate a bladder stone
  2. Holmium laser lithotripsy: a flexible laser fiber inserted through a scope (camera) breaks up stones anywhere in the urinary tract, then the stones are removed using a small basket
  3. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL): a small incision made in the back where a small camera is inserted to locate and remove the stone
  4. Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL): breaks up multiple stones into small sizes so you can pass them on your own

Prevention Options

Once you have had a kidney stone you are 50% more likely to get another one within the next ten years. While there is no sure way to prevent kidney stones, particularly when you have a family history, there are some things you can do to help prevent them, including:

  1. Stay hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water daily. Lemonade and orange juice are also good as they both have citrate. Your urine should be clear or a light yellow if you are adequately hydrated.
  2. The most common kidney stone is made of calcium oxalate, however, it is important to eat more calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat milk, low-fat cheese, or low-fat yogurt.
  3. A diet high in salt increases your risk, as salt in the urine prevents calcium from being reabsorbed into the blood, so calcium stays in the urine, which may lead to stone formation.
  4. Limit oxalate-rich foods as oxalate is sometimes found in kidney stones, these foods include spinach, chocolate, coffee, peanuts, soy products, sweet potatoes, or wheat bran.
  5. Foods high in animal protein are acidic, so they may increase urine acid. It is a good idea to limit your intake of beef, poultry pork, and fish.
  6. Vitamin C supplements have been shown to cause kidney stones, especially in men. Vitamin C foods do not carry this increased risk.
  7. Chanca Piedra is a common herbal folk remedy. Chanca Piedra has not been well-researched.

Prevention Is Best

Kidney stones tend to be extremely painful. There are several effective solutions, but prevention is always the best way to live. There is no perfect prevention, but it is not too difficult to drink more water or lemonade, for instance. If you have a family history you will be at a higher risk, so following the preventative guidelines is definitely the best way to live.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 12, 2021:

Hi Devika,

I know they are painful as I have had patients with them when I was a nurse. I hope your husband doesn't get them again.

I appreciate your comments.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 12, 2021:

Pamela99 Kidney stones causes a lot of pain and know this when my husband had that problem. It was awful to see him suffering with such pain. Informative and well-researched. He did have that removed.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 12, 2021:

Hi MG,

I'm glad you liked the article. Thank you for your comments.

MG Singh from UAE on May 12, 2021:

Pamela, what a wonderful article and with tons of information. Thank you very much.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 12, 2021:

Hi Doris,

I know of a lady who had the stag horn kidney stone, but that is unusual, thank goodness. I am glad you found the article to be informative.

I appreciate your comments. I hope you say healthy, Doris!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 11, 2021:

Very informative article, I've never heard of staghorn kidney stones. I've known people, all guys, who said that passing a kidney stone was painful. Thanks for the lemonade tip. I'll pass this along to some of the men in my family.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 09, 2021:

Hi Audrey,

I have taken care of patients that were in a great deal of pain with kidney stone, but they were all men in my experience.

I appreciate your comments. Have a wonderful day!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on May 08, 2021:

I've heard that kidney stones are extremely painful. It's good to learn about a staghorn kidney as well as prevention methods. I know the importance of drinking plenty of water, but I didn't realize it's best to cut back on spinach, chocolate, and coffee. Good to know and thanks, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 05, 2021:

Hi Adrienne,

I agree that a stag horn kidney stone is very scary. It sure needs to be treated. No doubt, the stones are painful. There are definitely good treatments.

Thank you so much for your comments.

Adrienne Farricelli on May 05, 2021:

It is scary to learn a staghorn kidney stone left untreated is capable overtime of destroying the kidney and possibly even cause a life-threatening infection! A friend of mine had stones and I remember how miserable she looked from enduring all the pain. It is good to hear though that there are ways of decreasing the chances of getting them.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 04, 2021:

Hi Sp,

I am glad you now know the importance of staying hydrated. Men have kidney stones more often than men, but it doesn't mean it cannot happen to you.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Stay healthy!

Sp Greaney from Ireland on May 04, 2021:

It interesting to learn more about this because it seemed to be something that can occur in anyone if you are not careful. I do drink water but not enough. At least there are different treatments available for those who suffers from it. Very interesting read.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 04, 2021:

Hi Devika,

I am sorry to hear you had this pain as I know it is awful. I hope you drink a lot of water or maybe lemonade.Staying hydrated is so important.

I worked as an RN for a long time, but I also research my topic as medicine is always changing.

I appreciate your comments and hope you stay healthy.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 04, 2021:

Pamela99 I had kidney ache many times and it was awful. I felt so sore and uncomfortable. It could have been certain beverages or draught could have caused it. Your information is important for all to read. It is clear to me that you have a knowledge of this health topic and informed us in detail.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Anya,

Thank you for reading and commenting.

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on May 03, 2021:

Thank you for an informative hub!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I have heard people say it hurts worse than giving birth. I am not sure how you could prove that statement. Men get kidney stones more often than women. I think being dehydrated is a major cause, certainly more so than an particular food.

I appreciate your comments, Linda. Stay safe and healthy!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 03, 2021:

Good gracious, Pamela, this sounds absolutely ghastly. No one in my family has had kidney stones but I have several male friends who have said "it hurts worse than giving birth." (Obviously they can't verify that statement, but seeing the details of that staghorn stone are somewhat convincing. However, I had a 9-pound baby without anesthetic, so I didn't overwhelm my friends with sympathy).

I sure hope I never have this problem. If I had to eliminate spinach, coffee, peanuts, soy products, wheat bran and poultry from my diet life would not be worth living.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Chitrangada,

It is definitely a very painful condition. You make a very good point about the importance of being hydrated. Prevention should work well for most people.

I appreciate your very nice comments. Take care.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 03, 2021:

It’s an important and informative article about the kidney stones. I know that it’s a painful condition, if someone has it, and it’s also somewhat hereditary.

The best option is, prevention of course. One should be careful about being hydrated. This can solve many other health issues.

As always, a very useful article to spread health awareness. Thank you for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Charlene,

I am glad you found this article to be interesting. I do appreciate your comments. Stay healthy!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Eric,

It is good to see you. I hope your neighbor is healthy for a 93 year old.

Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you stay safe and healthy.

Charlene Gallant from Cape Town, South Africa on May 03, 2021:

Thank you Pamela for the interesting read. Your articles are always so intuitive!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 03, 2021:

This is good for me as my 93 year old neighbor might just have some. I can now speak to her well. Thank you

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Fran,

I knew you or a loved one must have had that stone for you to make that request. I know it must have been just awful. I know you hope that never happens again.

Thank you for your comments. I hope you have a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Igra,

I am glad you found the article informative. You clearly know the signs and symptoms.

I appreciate your comments. Blessings.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Lorna,

I have taken care of patients that were miserable with this pain. I agree with the importance of what we eat and drink.

I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Blessings.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi MG,

Kidney stones are especially more common among men. Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope you a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I am glad you found this article informative. Thank you so much for your comments. Stay safe and healthy!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Flourish,

Maybe there is some justice in the world, or certainly in this man's case. I understand the family's reaction.

I appreciate your comments. Have a good week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

As a nurse I saw some men who were in so much pain, so I agree prevention is ideal if at all possible.

Thank you for you comments. Take care.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on May 03, 2021:

Pamela, thanks for submitting an article on staghorn stones. My experience with surgery to remove one did not go well. Left hspt with tubes out my back, etc., Hope I ever have a repeat. Tour articles are always so professional.

Iqra from East County on May 03, 2021:

Hi Pamela your articles are very informative and useful. It's a common disease. Kidney stones move into your ureter signs and symptoms can result. Signs and symptoms of kidney stones can include severe pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and blood in your urine. Thanks a lot Pamela, Blessings :)

Lorna Lamon on May 03, 2021:

This is an extremely painful condition and your article covers every aspect in great detail Pamela. Drinking plenty of water is so beneficial to our body and mind. I truly believe 'we are what we eat and drink.' Thank you for sharing this informative article. Blessings.

MG Singh from UAE on May 02, 2021:

Interesting article about kidney stones which are pretty common. Nice that you highlighted the importance of the kidney in everyday life.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 02, 2021:

This is another very informative article about health. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Pamela.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 02, 2021:

This is good information and I sure hope I don’t get any. My sister’s ex-husband was a terrible man and (this is awful but I’ll tell it anyway) my whole extended family cracked up when we found out he was stranded on the side on the road alone on the “mixing bowl” in DC rush hour traffic passing large stones. After the divorce we told my sister how we all joked about his misfortune. He had this and other things coming.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 02, 2021:

Fortunately, no one I know has suffered from kidney stones. Thanks for writing another informative medical-type article. It is always best to prevent the formation of kidney stones than deal with the pain and agony of having them.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on May 02, 2021:

Pamela, this is an excellent article. My uncle years back had a kidney stone. He used to eat red kidney beans.I have heard from him that Red Kidney beans provide many of the nutritional qualities that promote kidney health. Water is the best source to eliminate the kidney stone naturally.

Your article is very informative and helpful

Thanks for sharing it with us

Blessings and lots of love!!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 02, 2021:

Hi Linda,

If you have a family history of kidney stones, or if you have ever had one the diet becomes more important. If you have never had a stone or if a family member hasn't then I wouldn't worry. It is always a good idea to stay hydrate, especially in the summer months.

I appreciate your reading and commenting, Linda. I hope you have a good week ahead.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on May 02, 2021:

Linda, It takes foods to improve your kidney health. Learn you need to know for the kidney. Get your daily the kidney health!