For kidney and ureteral stones that are too large (usually larger than 2 centimeters), too numerous, or too dense to be treated by the Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) PCNL (percutaneous nephrolithotomy or stone extraction), a minimally invasive method of removing these stones is recommended.
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy, or PCNL, is performed under general anesthesia. During the procedure, your doctor makes a small incision in your side about the size of a fingertip. A narrow tunnel is then created directly into the kidney. A special telescope (called a nephroscope) is used to examine the inside of the kidney. Stones are broken by high speed vibration or a laser. This procedure usually requires a one to three day hospital stay and most patients resume normal activity within two weeks.