Urology of Greater Atlanta

Staghorn Kidney Stones

Urology Of Greater Atlanta

Have you ever heard of staghorn kidney stones? These formidable formations, also known as staghorn stones or staghorn calculi (or a singular staghorn calculus), are a specific type of kidney stone that can pose serious health risks if left untreated. In this article, we will cover the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies associated with these complex renal stones.

Call Urology of Greater Atlanta or request an appointment online today if you’re concerned about kidney stones or have any urinary abnormalities or pain! Our board-certified urologists are ready to help. For your convenience, we have multiple offices located throughout Georgia.

What Are Staghorn Kidney Stones?

Staghorn kidney stones (also referred to as staghorn renal stones) are large, branched stones that occupy a significant portion of the renal pelvis and the branched system of the kidney.

A staghorn stone may form as a result of an infection or as a result of a smaller stone that grows larger over time. When they develop due to infection, they may be made up of struvite, a compound that includes magnesium and ammonium phosphate, which is formed by a combination of phosphate and ammonium salts.

When they form from smaller stones, they can be made up of calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate, or a mix of calcium carbonate apatite along with struvite.

Unlike other types of kidney stones, such as uric acid stones, staghorn calculi have a unique shape and size, making their management more challenging. Staghorn stones get their name because they branch out like a deer’s horns. This branching can block the drainage system within your kidney.

The Symptoms of Staghorn Kidney Stones

A staghorn kidney stone can manifest in various ways. You may experience any of the following symptoms:

The Causes of Staghorn Kidney Stones

Staghorn stones are often caused by recurrent urinary tract infections that lead to the accumulation of mineral deposits, ultimately forming the stones over time. Other causes include the following:

  • Unusual anatomy that lends itself to stone formation
  • Urinary tract obstructions
  • Long-term catheter use
  • Prior urinary diversion procedure
  • Neurogenic bladder
  • Long-term untreated kidney stones

Who Is Likely to Get Staghorn Kidney Stones?

Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing staghorn kidney stones. Some of the risk factors include:

  • History of urinary tract infections
  • Congenital urinary tract malformations
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Family history of kidney stones
  • Drinking insufficient amounts of water
  • Assigned female at birth

How Are Staghorn Kidney Stones Diagnosed?

Diagnosing staghorn kidney stones usually involves a combination of imaging tests. These tests may include ultrasounds, CT scans, or X-rays. A comprehensive review of your medical history will also be considered.

These diagnostic tools help healthcare providers visualize the presence, size, and location of the stones within the affected kidney, aiding in treatment planning and determining the best course of action.

How to Treat Staghorn Kidney Stones

The management of staghorn calculi can vary depending on factors such as the size and location of the stone and your overall health. In some cases, smaller stones may pass on their own with the help of pain medication and increased fluid intake.

However, due to the complexity and size of staghorn stones, more invasive procedures are often required. Complete removal is essential to avoid associated complications.

Procedures that are used to remove kidney stones may include the following:

  • Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL), a non-invasive technique that uses sound waves to break down the stones into smaller fragments. The stone fragments then pass through the urine.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL), a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which a small incision is made in the back to access and remove the entire stone.
  • Open surgery is less often used and reserved for larger stones that have branched further into the kidney.

Your doctor may sometimes prescribe combination therapy in which both SWL and PCNL are used to remove the stone.

How to Prevent Staghorn Kidney Stone Recurrence

Preventing staghorn kidney stones is crucial, especially for individuals with a history of these stones or those at a higher risk. You may reduce the chances of a kidney stone forming by doing the following:

  • Maintain adequate hydration by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This will help dilute urine and reduce the concentration of minerals that can contribute to stone formation.
  • Follow a healthy diet low in sodium and foods rich in oxalate, such as spinach and chocolate.
  • Prompt treatment of urinary tract infections and practicing proper hygiene. This will help reduce the risk of recurrent infection.

When Should You Contact a Healthcare Provider?

Call your urologist or seek medical help after your staghorn stone treatment if:

  • Your body temperature reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
  • You have chills and/or are shaking.
  • Your bleeding continues or gets worse.
  • Your pain continues or gets worse.
  • You’re not able to urinate.

Get Relief From Kidney Stone Pain Today

Contact our team of professionals at Urology of Greater Atlanta or request an appointment online if you have questions about kidney stones or are experiencing kidney pain! Our board-certified urologists look forward to providing you with the help you need. Reach out to one of our many offices throughout Georgia today!

Stockbridge, Country Club Drive

290 Country Club Drive Suite 100, Stockbridge, GA 30281

Blue Ridge, Blue Ridge Drive

4799 Blue Ridge Drive Suite 107, Blue Ridge, GA 30513

Sandy Springs

1100 Lake Hearn Drive NE STE 320
Atlanta, GA 30342

Griffin, West College Street

230 West College Street Bldg. C, Griffin, GA 30224

Spivey Station

7823 Spivey Station Blvd Suite 210, Jonesboro, GA 30236


4143 Hospital Drive NE Covington, GA 30014