Ureteral stones (also called ureteral calculi) usually form in the bladder and are made up of naturally occurring minerals that crystallize out of the urine. If they remain small, they can pass normally out of the body during urination. If they become larger, however, they may lodge in the ureter (the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder). Here they may cause blockage, pain, infection, and backup of urine into the kidney. This blockage may then cause permanent damage to the kidney.
Prevention of stone formation by regular and adequate hydration is recommended. Once stones do form, become large, cause cramps and pain, and cease to move through the system, there are several types of treatment available. These vary according to the size, type, and location of the stone.
The physician will use blood and urine tests, along with diagnostic imaging, to learn more about the stone. Then he may pass a small tube through the urethra and the bladder, into the ureter. This allows the doctor to view, capture, or crush the stone, allowing it to wash out on its own. For other cases, the physician may use sound waves from outside the body to crumble the stone into small pieces, again, allowing it to pass normally. Only in severe cases should surgery through the abdominal wall be necessary.
Recurrence of such stones is common, and the physician will recommend which factors, such as medication and diet, should be changed to reduce the risk.