One in 10 Americans will be affected by kidney stones at some point in their life and about a million patients will experience a kidney stone attack this year. While most stones will pass on their own, larger stones can be life-threatening. Now, a new non-invasive treatment can safely wipe out stones, even in extreme cases.
A sudden slip out of the shower one morning saved Stacy Cassell's life.
"If I wouldn't have fallen, we may have never have found them," Cassell said.
Back pain from the fall sent her to the emergency room, but doctors found something much more serious, Staghorn kidney stones - stones so big they nearly filled both kidneys.
"He's (the doctor) was like if we didn't find these you could have been dead by the end of the year," Cassell explained. “We’re talking about a stone that’s maybe about the size of my hand.”
Doctor Julio Davalos says our bodies naturally flush out most kidney stones, but once they reach about the size of a raisin they become hard to pass.
“So size matters when it comes to stones,” said Dr. Davalos.
Cassell’s were so large, surgery was her only option. Dr. Davalos used a new laser on Stacy's stones called Lumenis Versapulse. This enabled her to pass the stones on her own, lowering her risk of complications.
"I'm able to fragment the stone into minute grains of sand and that can just sort of pass out of the kidney," Dr. Davalos said.
Since a special type of laser energy setting is used, there's a better chance that no other tissue is affected, saving Cassell’s kidney.
“I’ve had no trouble since then,” said Cassell.
Cassell’s doctor told her she most likely got the stones because she doesn't keep herself hydrated.
Doctors usually try medication first before resorting to other methods.