Kidney Health – Conditions

Kidney Stones

What are kidney stones?

What is stone disease?

Stones in the urinary tract (urolithiasis) are a very common condition in the hot Australian climate. In this condition, stones (calculi) form within the urine from progressive growth of small crystals. Men are affected more than women (60:405), and recurrence is common, with roughly 50% of patients having further stones within the next decade.

Due to modern dietary changes and increasing body weights, the kidney stones are becoming more common. Children and young adults can also be affected by the condition.

What causes kidney stones?

The human body has 2 kidneys that lie on your back, just below the rib cage. Their role is to filter the blood and remove the body’swaste products. In order to effectively do this, it is important for people to maintain well hydrated. If a person is dehydrated, there is an excess of waste material, or an imbalance of salts & minerals, then the urine the kidneys produce is too concentrated. As a general principal, urine should appear nearly clear. If it is yellow, you may be drinking too little water, or potentially consuming minerals that the body can’t absorb (and thus needs to flush out).

When the urine is too concentrated, crystals can form due to this imbalance between the water component of the urine and the dissolved body waste. Over time, these crystals then merge together to form stones, which when large enough can then cause the symptoms of renal colic.

What are the symptoms of stone disease?

The symptoms of stones vary depending upon the location & size of the stones.

If the stones are small & present only in the kidneys, many patients may not experience any symptoms at all. These stones are often innocent bystanders and discovered incidentally whilst others problems are being investigated. However, if these small stones grow, they may start to rub and cause symptoms.

Once stones fall from the kidney and cause a blockage in the ureter (urine pipe) then symptoms are common.

The classic symptom of a kidney stones is renal colic, which is due to the blockage in the usual flow of urine from the kidney to the bladder.


Renal colic = Severe Pain, Nausea & Vomiting


Other symptoms of kidney stones can include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Infections / sepsis
  • Kidney failure


Renal colic is thus a common cause of Emergency Department attendance, with patients potentially needing IV pain relief and emergency surgery.

How are kidney stones diagnosed


  • Severe loin to groin pain
  • Back pain
  • Nausea
  • Sweats
  • Urge to urinate
  • Blood in the urine



CT KUB – a CT scan of the kidneys, ureters and bladder.

In order to detect kidney stones only a very low X-ray dose is required. With modern equipment, this is even safe to do even in pregnancy! However, out of an abundance of caution for most pregnant women an ultrasound is routinely used instead.

A CT KUB accurately help to determine the location & number of stones, their size, and the best form of treatment.

How can you prevent kidney stones from forming?

Whilst there are many potential medical causes for kidney stones, as a general principal the excess concentration of dissolved salts in the urine is key.


  • Drink more water
  • Limit caffeine and soft drink
  • Avoid excess body weight

Kidney Stone Treatments

How are kidney stones treated? 

There are several treatment options available.

If patients are presenting via an emergency department, Dr Symons will consider not only the stone that requires urgent treatment, but also if there are any other stones that could be pre-emptively to avoid future issues.

Private patients benefit significantly from a shorter treatment pathway. Safe kidney stones treatment may require several staged procedures, with a stent placement between operations. SydneyUro offers multiple operating sessions per week, thus allowing for a rapid resolution to all kidney stone issues, regardless of complexity and size. This permits an early return to work, minimal pain, and no issues with stent encrustation.

Dr Symons takes a holistic view to kidney stone treatment and will work with you to prevent future stones from occurring. For some patients, this will be dietary medication, whilst in others this might entail a comprehensive biochemical assessment to check for amedical reason behind the stone’s formation. 

Treatment options include:

SydneyUro offers rapid access to both diagnostic imaging, Urological consultation, and treatment.

Dr Symons has multiple operating lists each week in Sydney, offering prompt access to affordable & definitive care, should it be required. This helps to alleviate anxiety, as well as the length of the patient’s treatment pathway. 

Dr Symons will consider the specific details of your stone to construct a personalised treatment plan tailored to your individual condition and needs.

Kidney (Renal) Tumours

What are kidney tumours and how are they caused?

Cancers of the kidney are one of the most common types of tumours to affect Australians. They are more common after the age of 50, and due to the higher rate of smoking and occupational exposure, occur more often in men.

Kidney (Renal) tumours are not all the same and are classified based on the cell type they develop from. In general, most renal tumours will either be a RENAL CELL CARCINOMA (RCC) or a UPPER TRACT UROTHELIAL TUMOUR (UTUC). Their diagnosis, treatment and follow-up varies depending on the cell typ.e

Fortunately, due to the widespread use of community ultrasound in Australia for other conditions, the “classical triad” of advanced renal cell tumours are rarely seen, as most tumours are detected incidentally (by chance) when patients are having scans for other ailments. When detected and treated early, the likelihood of permanent cure is excellent.

Signs & Symptoms

Classic signs (15% patients only):

  • Blood-stained urine (haematuria)
  • Palpable abdominal mass (can be felt when pressing over the renal area)
  • Loin pain

Other symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Tiredness
  • “B symptoms”
    • Night sweats
    • Fever
    • Weight loss
  • Paraneoplastic symptoms (affecting up to 40% of RCC patients, these are a constellation of systemic signs and symptoms due to the presence of a malignancy and are due to abnormal hormone production or the body’s immune response to the tmpur)
    • High calcium levels (Hypercalcemia)
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • Anaemia (low blood count)
    • Polycythemia (“thick” blood)
    • Neuromyopathies (nerve issues)
    • Nonmetastatic hepatic dysfunction (liver failure)
    • Vasculopathy (tendency to clot)
    • Galactorrhea (leaking from the breasts)
    • Nephropathy (renal failure)
    • Cushing’s syndrome (high Cortisol level)
    • Coagulopathy (tendency to bleed)
    • Alterations in glucose metabolism
  • Urine tests – looking for unusual cells (cytology) that might indicate a UTUC (upper tract urothelial cancer)
  • Blood tests
  • CT
  • Renal tract ultrasound
  • MRI

Kidney (Renal) Tumour Treatments

Dr Symons will discuss with his patients at length regarding the most appropriate type of treatment, taking into account the specific features of their tumour and their other general health conditions treatment.

Treatment options for renal tumours include:

Laparoscopic Radical Nephrectomy (keyhole removal of the whole kidney)

Robotic Partial Nephrectomy (keyhole removal of the tumour, sparing the remaining healthy kidney)

Nephro-Ureterectomy (removal of the kidney and the tube that connects it to the bladder – performed for cases of UTUC)

Local ablation (to slow the growth in patients not ideal for surgery)

Active surveillance (close monitoring, particularly for smaller tumours)

Our dedicated & caring team of professionals are here to help.

Conservative Treatment

For some stones, Dr Symons may recommend monitoring of the stones. This is particularly the case if the stones are small and asymptomatic, as these have a very high likelihood of passing without a procedure. Monitoring is often then safest and least invasive path of management.

Medical Treatment

Small Uric Acid stones can be dissolved, though strict adherence to dietary changes is essential and full dissolution may take months to years. This path is NOT safe is patients whose kidney stones are causing obstruction, or where medical conditions prevent very high fluid intake.

Extra-corporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

Shockwave treatment is a non-invasive day surgery procedure where targeted sound waves are used to shatter the crystal stricture of the stones, which can then be passed in the urine. This treatment is only suitable for a select group of patients.


Laser stone surgery is the most common form of treatment for almost all stones and can be safely performed as a day procedure. During a minimally-invasive Ureteroscopy, a small camera is passed under general anaesthetic through the bladder up to the level of the stone(s). Under magnified vision, Dr Symons harnesses the energy of a targeted laser beam to shatter the stone into small crystal fragments which will pass in the urine. Ureteroscopy can also allow Dr Symons to sample the stone fragments for biochemical analysis in order to prevent future stone formation. 

PerCutaneous NephroLithotomy (PCNL)

For very large stones, treatment through the bladder is potentially not ideal, and instead a small skin incision is made on the skin over the kidney. Much like in ‘keyhole’ abdominal surgery, a telescope is placed directly into the kidney. This direct channel is much larger diameter (~1cm) and allows for various high-energy instruments to be to treat larger kidney stones, or stones in the ureter which can’t be accessed from the bladder by a ureteroscope.