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Kidney stones, solid formations resulting from crystallised substances in urine, afflict millions worldwide, causing severe pain and discomfort. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) has emerged as a highly effective surgical intervention for treating kidney stones, especially those that are large or complex. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the nuances of PCNL, exploring its procedure, benefits, risks, and recovery process, alongside insights into nephrolithotomy surgery.

What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones, or nephrolithiasis, arise from a variety of factors, including dehydration, dietary choices rich in certain minerals, and genetic predisposition. These solid masses, varying in size and composition, can cause excruciating pain and may lead to complications such as urinary tract infections or kidney damage if left untreated.

Introduction to PCNL

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure aimed at removing kidney stones. It involves accessing the kidney through a small incision in the patient’s back, typically guided by imaging techniques such as fluoroscopy or ultrasound. PCNL is often recommended for stones larger than 2 cm in diameter, those causing obstruction, or stones resistant to other treatment methods.

The PCNL Procedure

  1. Preoperative Preparation:
  • Prior to PCNL, patients undergo a thorough evaluation, including imaging studies and blood tests, to assess stone characteristics and overall kidney health.

2. Anaesthesia:

  • PCNL is performed under general anaesthesia to ensure patient comfort and immobility during the procedure.

3. Access to the Kidney:

  • The surgeon makes a small incision in the patient’s back to access the kidney.
  • Using imaging guidance, a needle is inserted into the kidney’s collecting system to create a pathway for instruments.

4. Stone Removal:

  • Specialised instruments, such as nephro scopes and lasers, are utilised to fragment and extract the kidney stones.
  • Fragmented stones may be removed using suction or grasping devices.

5. Closure:

  • Following stone removal, the incision site is typically closed with sutures or steri-strips.

Nephrolithotomy Surgery

Nephrolithotomy, encompassing both percutaneous and open approaches, involves directly accessing the kidney to remove stones. While PCNL is the preferred minimally invasive technique, open nephrolithotomy may be necessary in certain cases, particularly for large or complex stones.

  • Open Nephrolithotomy:
    • In this traditional approach, a larger incision is made in the patient’s side or abdomen to directly access the kidney.
    • Stones are manually removed, and the incision is closed with sutures or staples.

Benefits of PCNL( Percutaneous nephrolithotomy)

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy offers several advantages over traditional open surgery:

  • High Success Rate: PCNL boasts a high success rate in completely clearing kidney stones, especially large or complex ones.
  • Minimally Invasive: Despite its effectiveness, PCNL is minimally invasive compared to traditional open surgery, resulting in shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery times.
  • Reduced Pain and Discomfort: Many patients report less postoperative pain and discomfort compared to other surgical approaches.
  • Preservation of Kidney Function: PCNL aims to preserve kidney function while effectively removing stones, making it a preferred option for many patients.

Risks and Complications of PCNL( Percutaneous nephrolithotomy)

While PCNL is generally safe, potential risks and complications include bleeding, infection, damage to surrounding structures, and residual stone fragments requiring additional procedures. Close monitoring and prompt intervention can mitigate these risks effectively.

Recovery and Follow-up

Following PCNL, patients undergo close monitoring for any signs of complications. Pain management strategies, including medication and hydration, are employed to ensure patient comfort during the recovery period. Depending on the complexity of the procedure, recovery times may vary, but most patients can expect to resume normal activities within a few days to weeks. Follow-up appointments are crucial to monitor kidney function, assess for stone recurrence, and address any concerns or complications.


In conclusion, percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) and nephrolithotomy surgery stand as crucial pillars in the management of kidney stones. Their effectiveness, demonstrated by high success rates and relatively low complication rates, provides patients with prompt relief from the agony and inconvenience associated with kidney stones. Nonetheless, it remains imperative for patients to engage in thorough discussions regarding the risks, benefits, and alternatives of these procedures with their healthcare provider. In navigating this decision-making process, the expertise and guidance of urologists like Dr. Dushyant Pawar, renowned for his contributions to urological advancements, can offer invaluable insights tailored to each patient’s unique circumstances.


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