Kidney Stone Surgery Recovery: What To Know & Expect 2023

Reviewed by Dr. Maya Frankfurt, PhD

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kidney stone surgery recovery
Learn what to expect when recovering from kidney stone surgery. Photo: Shutterstock

You may have had severe pain in your side, abdomen, or back and been diagnosed with a kidney stone. Depending on its size, shape and location, your doctor may have recommended conservative or surgical treatment options to remove the stone. Or perhaps you tried a home remedy to achieve relief. Regardless of the treatment provided, the recovery period after a kidney stone can be just as daunting.

In this article, we will discuss what happens after the removal of a kidney stone regardless of the type of procedure completed. We will also provide information about how long to rest and recover after each procedure. After reading this article, it will be clear what to expect when recovering from a kidney stone.

Kidney Stone Surgery Recovery

Depending on the type of surgery utilized to remove a kidney stone, there may be different expectations regarding healing and recovery.

  • Shock Wave Lithotripsy: After this procedure, it is common to resume normal activities within a day and allow the remainder of the stone to pass within your urine. It is important to hydrate and take pain medications to find relief during this process.
  • Ureteroscopy With Laser Lithotripsy: The procedure includes a stent placement[1] within your ureter which requires staying at the hospital overnight. You can expect to experience pain, blood in your urine, and bladder spasms after the procedure so drinking fluids and taking antibiotics, pain medication, and stool softeners will be imperative.
  • Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL): This recovery can take a few weeks, and may include an incision with sutures, blood in your urine, and possibly an external drainage bag. Again, you will need to increase your fluid intake and continue taking antibiotics, stool softener, and pain medications.

Kidney Stone Surgery Recovery Time

Shock Wave Lithotripsy (SWL)

This method,[2] also called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), utilizes high-energy shock waves that are passed through the skin. The recovery time after this procedure is short, and you can resume normal activities on the same day as the procedure.

Ureteroscopy With Laser Lithotripsy

During this procedure,[3] an instrument is passed from the outside of the body to the area where the stone is located. It may take several hours to complete, but for many patients, the recovery time includes a brief observation period or at maximum, an overnight stay at the hospital.

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL)

PCNL is often used for very large stones. It is performed by taking a flexible tube[4] and passing it through the skin into the kidneys. It may require you to have an external bag to collect urine and stone fragments for a short period of time. Therefore, you will have a brief stay at the hospital, but will be cleared for light work within a few short days.

Recovery From Kidney Stone Surgery: Post-Surgery Symptoms

Shock Wave Lithotripsy

It is possible you may see blood and stone fragments in your urine after this procedure.[5] To combat the abdominal pain or cramps that may come from working to pass the remainder of the stone, medication and drinking lots of water can help relieve pain.

You may also receive a filter to collect the stone fragments for testing. If you experience heavy bleeding or severe pain it is important to get medical attention right away.

Ureteroscopy With Laser Lithotripsy

You can expect to receive general anesthesia for this procedure, which can be done as an outpatient or inpatient procedure. While SWL is done through the skin with ultrasound (shock) waves, the surgeon is able to work inside your urinary tract through the use of the ureteroscopy. A kidney stone can cause the ureter to become inflamed, so a stent is utilized to keep the passage open. It will then be taken out a few days later.

After the procedure, it is common to experience nausea, stent pain, and bladder spasms. Stent pain is a tingling sensation causing a frequent urge to urinate whereas bladder spasms cause a sudden, even uncontrollable urge to urinate that may lead to some leakage.

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL)

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy[6] recovery takes between two to four weeks. You will likely stay overnight at the hospital for the first night following the procedure. Once the sedation wears off, you can expect to experience some pain and nausea, and occasionally, the drainage tube is left in place also causing pain until it is removed.

The procedure will create a small incision that is closed with sutures and a bandage. It is important you follow your discharge instructions on caring properly for the wound.

Kidney Stone Removal Surgery Recovery: Care Tips

kidney stone surgery recovery
Be sure to follow discharge instructions after a kidney procedure. Photo: Shutterstock

Shock Wave Lithotripsy

After recovering from extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, follow the discharge instructions for best recovery. This includes limiting your intake to clear liquids or light meals. Do not use alcohol, sedatives, or any medication except as prescribed. Drinking plenty of water and using a stool softener[7] will help with constipation. It is advised to take the recommended dose at bedtime with a full glass of water.

It is also important you remain active after any of these procedures. Moderate exercise, like walking, can help you pass the remaining fragments, which can happen even weeks after the procedure. You may receive a filter to collect kidney stone fragments for testing.

Hospitals will provide discharge instructions for medications. This includes over-the-counter pain medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), or a prescription for stronger pain medication like tamsulosin (Flomax), which relaxes the urethra so you can pass urine more easily. If you take narcotic pain medication, such as Oxycodone or Percocet, do not drive until you are no longer taking that medication. 

These medications may also decrease bowel action, also called peristalsis,[8] and cause constipation. Drink plenty of water, maintain a high-fiber diet, and consider using stool softeners or laxatives to help relieve constipation.

Ureteroscopy With Laser Lithotripsy

After a ureteroscopy, you will have a stent placed. Its removal is completed at a later date under local anesthesia. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids and take antibiotics or any other medications that are prescribed.

It is normal to have some discomfort during recovery after kidney stone surgery. This may include a burning feeling in your bladder or an increased frequency to urinate. If you are unable to urinate, see large blood clots in your urine, have severe pain, have cloudy or foul smelling urine, strike a fever, or have a significant amount of blood in your urine after the third day, contact your doctor immediately or go to an emergency room. 

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL)

After you receive percutaneous nephrolithotomy, you will need to rest for a few days and avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for several weeks. If your surgeon placed a drainage tube connected to a urine collection bag on the outside of your body, watch for blood coming through the tube. If you see heavy bleeding or big clots, contact your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

You must also watch for a fever or chills, as these could be signs of infection, and you may need antibiotics. If you have severe pain despite medication, contact your doctor.


There may be fears associated with kidney stone removal, however this article can help you to understand what is to be expected after your procedure.

In general, drinking plenty of water and watching your diet can help prevent you from getting kidney stones or keep them from returning after you receive treatment. Be sure to follow all discharge instructions after receiving kidney stone treatment. Best wishes to you on your journey to good health!

Frequently Asked Questions

How will my doctor decide which procedure to use to treat my kidney stones?

Your specialist will consider the size and location, as well as the composition of the kidney stones. If you have had treatment before that did not eliminate the stones, you could get a more complex procedure.

Will I need to be hospitalized?

Many procedures are done in an outpatient setting. You will go to the kidney center, and return home a few hours later. You will receive sedation, so you will need a ride. For ureteroscopy and nephrolithotomy cases, you may have a short hospital stay.

Can I continue to take my usual medications before and after the kidney stone procedures?

When getting any procedure, be sure to inform the prescribing physician and your urologist. They will advise you whether to discontinue your medications, and when you can restart them. This is especially important for blood thinners, such as clopidogrel (Plavix), but also includes common over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

Could I get kidney stones again after they are removed?

Yes, you should practice preventative measures, such as drinking plenty of water, avoiding carbonated beverages, and decreasing your sodium (salt) intake.

+ 8 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. Boyko (2021). Ureteral stenting after routine ureteroscopy: Is earlier stent removal feasible? The Canadian journal of urology, [online] 28(5). Available at:,placement%20is%20not%20well%20defined.
  2. Miranda, C., Alexandre Danilovic, Fabio Carvalho Vicentini, Giovanni Scala Marchini, Srougi, M. and Mazzucchi, E. (2015). Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy in the treatment of renal and ureteral stones. Revista Da Associacao Medica Brasileira, [online] 61(1), pp.65–71. doi:
  3. Ryan, J.R., Nguyen, M.H., Linscott, J.A., Nowicki, S., James, E., Jumper, B., Ordonez, M.A. and Ingimarsson, J.P. (2022). Ureteroscopy with thulium fiber laser lithotripsy results in shorter operating times and large cost savings. World Journal of Urology, [online] 40(8), pp.2077–2082. doi:
  4. Ibrahim, A., Wollin, D.A., Preminger, G. and Andonian, S. (2018). Technique of Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy. [online] ResearchGate. Available at:
  5. Miranda, C., Alexandre Danilovic, Fabio Carvalho Vicentini, Giovanni Scala Marchini, Srougi, M. and Mazzucchi, E. (2015). Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy in the treatment of renal and ureteral stones. Revista Da Associacao Medica Brasileira, [online] 61(1), pp.65–71. doi:
  6. Knoll, T., Pedro, F., Desai, J., Andras Hoznek, Knudsen, B.E., Montanari, E., Cesare Marco Scoffone, Skolarikos, A. and Keiichi Tozawa (2017). Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: technique. World Journal of Urology, [online] 35(9), pp.1361–1368. doi:
  7. (2018). Stool Softeners: MedlinePlus Drug Information. [online] Available at:
  8. Omeed Sizar, Genova, R. and Gupta, M. (2023). Opioid-Induced Constipation. [online] Available at:


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Dr. Maya Frankfurt received her Ph.D. in neuroscience and has been teaching and doing research for over 30 years. She has taught neuroscience and physiology to medical students and allied health students. Her research interests are primarily related to understanding how the brain responds to alterations in hormones, drugs, and aging. Of particular importance is the understanding of the mechanisms involved in short- and long-term memory. Although these studies are done in animals the goal is to understand the mechanisms underlying learning and memory in humans and to provide potential directions for therapy in patients with dementia. Related to this, is the attempt to understand potential sex differences and the effects of estrogen in learning and memory because women have a greater incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease than do men. The initial hormone studies led to an interest on the effects of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in plastics that has been shown to disrupt endocrine function, on both memory and brain structure. This research has been published in over 80 papers in peer referred journals.

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