Ureteroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure to treat small to medium sized kidney stones. A small flexible telescope is passed up the urethra, into the bladder, then up into the ureter and even into the kidney to visualize stones. Then, a laser is used to fragment the stones and a basket may be used to remove them.
Often a ureteral stent, a small plastic tube, is left temporarily to allow the kidney to drain into the bladder after the procedure. The stent is completely internal, and unlike a catheter does not require a bag to collect urine.
Almost all patients go home the same day as the ureteroscopy and can resume normal activities within a few days. If a stent is placed, it will need to be removed a short time later. Stents that remain for long periods of time without removal (greater than 4 to 6 months) may lead to infection and loss of kidney function.
Ureteroscopy can be performed while on aspirin or blood thinners and in some situations has a higher success than ESWL. However, sometimes, the scope is unable to be passed into the ureter because some peoples ureters are naturally more narrow than others or there may be a scar tissue present. If that is the case, a stent is often placed that will passively dilate the ureter over a week or two and the procedure can be attempted again.