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What Are Staghorn Calculi?

Staghorn calculi are large, branched kidney stones that resemble deer antlers. These formidable accumulations can cause significant discomfort and health complications. Understanding their formation and treatment is crucial for kidney health. Intrigued by how these complex stones develop and the innovative ways to manage them? Join us as we unveil the intricacies of staghorn calculi.
Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Staghorn calculi, more commonly called struvite stones or infection stones, are a type of kidney stone. These are hard deposits of minerals formed in the body's kidneys. While staghorn calculi are generally a more serious type of kidney stone because they can grow very large, they also occur less commonly than other types. They typically require medical treatment, because they can be too large to pass out of the body via urination. Treatment can include medications and sound wave therapy or surgery to remove the stones.

The cause of this type of kidney stone is an underlying infection. Often, a patient will have a urinary tract infection and then staghorn calculi will form in response to the bacteria. Women are more likely to get these kidney stones than men, because they tend to get more urinary tract infections. Other risk factors can include a family history or a personal history of frequently getting kidney stones.

Consuming large amounts of water may help pass some types of kidney stones through the urine.
Consuming large amounts of water may help pass some types of kidney stones through the urine.

One of the most obvious symptoms is pain. The patient may notice pain during urination, as well as a persistent need to urinate. They may also have severe pain below the ribs in their backs and sides, or pain in the groin or lower abdomen. Staghorn calculi can also cause fever and chills, as well as nausea and vomiting. Patients may also notice that their urine has turned brown, pink, or red.

Pain relievers may be required to alleviate pain associated with staghorn calculi.
Pain relievers may be required to alleviate pain associated with staghorn calculi.

Some types of kidney stones can be passed naturally through the urine, aided by the consumption of large amounts of water. Staghorn calculi tend to be too large to deal with in this manner. The doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics to address the underlying infection and clear bacteria from the body. Patients who experience severe pain may also be prescribed a pain reliever, such as prescription-strength naproxen.

Surgery may be required to treat staghorn calculi.
Surgery may be required to treat staghorn calculi.

A commonly used, non-invasive treatment for staghorn calculi is extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. This is a type of therapy that utilizes sound waves that can divide the stones into smaller pieces, which may then be passed through the urine. The patient may be sedated prior to the procedure to minimize discomfort. It is likely that patients will require more than one treatment to sufficiently break up the stones.

A fever may accompany the presence of staghorn calculi.
A fever may accompany the presence of staghorn calculi.

Sometimes, the struvite stones must be manually removed. A non-surgical option is to have the doctor pass a uteroscope, a thin tube with a camera, through the urethra until it reaches the stone. He can then grasp the stones and remove them, or break them into small enough pieces so that they may pass out of the body.

If these are not viable options or they are not successful, surgery may be required. A percutaneous nephrolithotomy is a surgical procedure that requires an incision in the back. The surgeon will then insert small instruments into the kidney to remove the stones.

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    • Consuming large amounts of water may help pass some types of kidney stones through the urine.
      By: Imcsike
      Consuming large amounts of water may help pass some types of kidney stones through the urine.
    • Pain relievers may be required to alleviate pain associated with staghorn calculi.
      By: Tootles
      Pain relievers may be required to alleviate pain associated with staghorn calculi.
    • Surgery may be required to treat staghorn calculi.
      By: astoria
      Surgery may be required to treat staghorn calculi.
    • A fever may accompany the presence of staghorn calculi.
      By: Andreja Donko
      A fever may accompany the presence of staghorn calculi.
    • Staghorn calculi are a type of kidney stone.
      By: airborne77
      Staghorn calculi are a type of kidney stone.
    • Kidney stones can be very painful.
      By: oneblink1
      Kidney stones can be very painful.
    • An ultrasound may be used to detect kidney stones.
      By: acherst
      An ultrasound may be used to detect kidney stones.
    • Staghorn calculi are hard deposits of minerals formed in the body's kidneys.
      By: 3drenderings
      Staghorn calculi are hard deposits of minerals formed in the body's kidneys.