How to Handle Kidney Stones in Kids

April 10,2023 |
Mom talking to her daughter.

If you’ve ever had to pass a kidney stone, you know how distressing it can be. Unfortunately, kidney stones can affect individuals of all ages, even children. Although less common, kidney stones in kids can cause a variety of symptoms, such as pain, vomiting, and blood in the urine. Not only does this affect their life, but it can make parents feel hopeless. Therefore, it’s important for parents to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for kidney stones in children. Here, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how to handle kidney stones in kids.


How the Kidneys Function

First, it’s beneficial to understand some basic information about the kidneys. The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located on either side of the spine in the lower back. They’re part of the urinary system, which is responsible for filtering waste products from the blood and removing them from the body as urine.

The kidneys filter waste products and excess fluids from the blood through a network of tiny blood vessels called nephrons. The waste products removed are what constitutes urine. They also play a role in regulating electrolytes in the body, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium. Your kidneys also regulate blood pressure and produce several hormones. They play a vital role in maintaining homeostasis in your body.


What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts. They form when urine contains high levels of certain minerals, which can then crystallize and stick together to form a stone. Stones can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball and the larger the stone, the more prominent the symptoms tend to be. There are four primary types of kidney stones that can affect your children:

  • Calcium Stones: These are the most common type of kidney stones, accounting for about 80% of all cases. They’re comprised of calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate, or a combination of both.
  • Struvite Stones: These are less common and usually occur as a result of urinary tract infections. They can grow quickly and may require prompt medical attention.
  • Uric Acid Stones: These stones form as a result of high levels of uric acid in the urine, which can be caused by certain medical conditions or high-protein diets.
  • Cystine Stones: These are rare and caused by an inherited metabolic disorder called cystinuria, which causes the body to excrete too much of certain amino acids.


    Other factors that can contribute to the formation of kidney stones include dehydration, family history, medications, and certain medical conditions.


    Symptoms of Kidney Stones in Kids

    Kidney stones tend to present the same symptoms in children as they do in adults. However, depending on the age of your child, it may be difficult for them to communicate what they’re feeling. Some symptoms include:


If your child complains of any of these symptoms, or they seem hesitant to use the bathroom, it’s important to see a doctor for the proper diagnosis.


How to Treat Kidney Stones in Children

Although it’s relatively rare for kidney stones to occur in children, getting treatment is still important. The first step in forming the right treatment plan is to undergo diagnostic testing to determine the exact cause of the symptoms. This can include things like a urinalysis, uric acid measurements, an abdominal CT scan or X-rays, or a kidney ultrasound. Once kidney stones are confirmed, there are a few different treatment options.


Stay Hydrated

Water is essential to the function of kidneys. It helps reduce the concentration of minerals within your urine, which is good for kidney stone prevention and treatment. If kidney stones are present, encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids to help flush out the stones. Talk to your child’s doctor for a recommended hydration goal based on their age, and do your best to encourage your children to stay hydrated.


Seek Medical Attention

If your child is experiencing symptoms such as severe pain, nausea, vomiting, or blood in the urine, seek medical attention right away. Your child's doctor will be able to diagnose the presence of kidney stones through various tests such as an ultrasound or a CT scan. This can also expedite treatment to help alleviate symptoms.


Shock Wave Lithotripsy

Although many stones tend to pass on their own, there are a few options for those that are too big or painful. One is shock wave lithotripsy. Shock wave lithotripsy is a non-invasive medical procedure that uses shock waves to break up the stones into smaller pieces. This helps make it easier for children to pass the stones with minimal discomfort.

Shock wave lithotripsy is typically an outpatient procedure that can treat kidney stones. It’s generally considered safe and effective for treating small to medium-sized kidney stones and children are often given anesthesia during the treatment to help prevent discomfort. However, the procedure may cause some side effects such as bruising or soreness in the treated area and in rare cases, damage to surrounding tissue or organs. Always talk to the doctor regarding any questions or concerns before moving forward with a treatment.



A cystoscopy uses a thin, flexible instrument (cystoscope) to examine the inside of the bladder and urethra. The cystoscope contains a light and small camera that allows your healthcare provider to see the inside of the bladder and urethra on a monitor and look for kidney stones. They may also use special instruments to remove stones, if possible.

A cystoscopy is performed as an outpatient procedure done under local or general anesthesia. After the procedure, your child may experience some discomfort or burning during urination, which should subside on its own.



A ureteroscopy is similar to a cystoscopy, but it goes further into the urinary tract to examine the ureters. The process is the same, but the instrument used is a ureteroscope, which is typically longer and thinner to accommodate the upper urinary tract. During the procedure, a doctor can remove kidney stones manually using the help of the light and camera attached to the tool.

Since this treatment goes higher into the urinary tract system, it may require an overnight stay for observation post-op. However, the procedure is performed under general anesthesia to reduce discomfort for your child. Afterward, your child may experience some discomfort or burning during urination for a short period of time, but serious complications are rare.


Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy

If kidney stones cannot be treated using other methods, your child’s doctor may recommend a percutaneous nephrolithotomy. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that’s usually reserved for larger or more complex kidney stones.

During the procedure, a small incision is made in your child’s back and a thin, flexible instrument called a nephroscope is passed through it and into the kidney. The nephroscope contains a light and a camera that allows the surgeon to see the inside of the kidney on a monitor. Then, using specialized instruments, the kidney stones can be broken up and removed. A percutaneous nephrolithotomy is performed under general anesthesia but may require a few days in the hospital to monitor post-op. Slight discomfort and hematuria is common following the procedure. However, this is a surgical option so there are some risks involved. Always talk to your child’s doctor to discuss any questions or concerns.


Following any treatment plan, your child’s doctor will likely recommend follow-up appointments to ensure that the stones have successfully passed or been removed. During this time, the doctor may also provide you with some information regarding how to prevent kidney stones in children in the future. Prevention usually depends on the type of kidney stones, as this can provide insight as to the underlying cause. However, staying hydrated and living a healthy, active lifestyle is always recommended.

Kidney stones can be quite uncomfortable and scary for children, but with the right treatment you can help them pass the stones and prevent future ones from occurring. For management of several urologic issues, Byram Healthcare is here to help. We carry a wide selection of high-quality urologic products that can help you take back control of your life. To learn more, or to speak with a professional regarding questions or ongoing management, contact Byram Healthcare today.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.