TUESDAY, April 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Kidney stone
treatments cause complications in about 14 percent of patients and
can be costly, according to a large new study.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 93,000 privately
insured patients in the United States who were treated for kidney
One in seven of the patients experienced complications that
required hospitalization or emergency care within 30 days of
treatment the study found. The average cost of treating
complications was $30,000 per patient.
The study looked at three methods of treatment, including
shock-wave lithotripsy, ureteroscopy and percutaneous
In shock-wave lithotripsy, a machine known as a lithotripter is
used to crush the kidney stone, according to the U.S. National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
Ureteroscopy involves using a long, tube-like instrument to find or
break up the stone. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy uses a wire-thin
viewing instrument to locate and remove the stone.
All three procedures require anesthesia, according to the
In the new study, rates of complications were 12 percent for
patients who had shock-wave lithotripsy and 15 percent for those
who underwent ureteroscopy. The average cost of treating
complications after nephrolithotomy was $47,000, compared with
$32,000 for complications after shock-wave lithotripsy.
Patients treated at hospitals that performed large numbers of
kidney stone procedures were much less likely to have
complications, according to the study published April 28 in the
"Our findings provide a good starting point to understand why
these complications are happening and how they can be prevented,
because the costs to patients who suffer complications and to the
health care system are substantial," lead author Dr. Charles Scales
Jr., an assistant professor of surgery at Duke University, said in
a university news release.
Further research is needed to learn why the three kidney stone
treatments had different complication rates and costs, the study
"From the patient perspective, an unplanned emergency department
visit or hospital admission after a low-risk ambulatory procedure
is a significant event," Scales said. "Kidney stones are
excruciatingly painful and primarily affect people who are of
working age. These patients face not only the cost of treatment,
but also the financial difficulties from time off work due to pain
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases has more about