Percutaneous nephrolithotripsy

Diagram of PCNL

Percutaneous stone surgery is usually used for larger stones. A small hollow tube is placed directly through a patient’s back into the kidney through which larger instruments can then be used to fragment and extract the stone(s). Although this approach typically requires a hospital stay and is more invasive than ureteroscopy or extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy, it is often the most effective method for treating  large stones quickly and completely. For more information on comparing the surgical options for kidney stones, see our comparison chart.

Percutaneous stone surgery may also be indicated in certain situations where the ureter below a  kidney is obstructed, such as in ureteropelvic junction obstructions, where a ureteroscope cannot be advanced from below.

Fast facts about percutaneous nephrolithotripsy:

  • Typical operative time: 1-2 hours
  • Usual hospital stay: 1-2 days
  • Average number of days before going back to work: about one week
  • Average number of days before feeling back to normal: about two weeks

PCNL instruments photo

A photograph showing a nephroscope used for percutaneous nephrolithotripsy. The gray tube around the instrument is the sheath placed temporarily into a kidney to allow access. A pen is shown for size comparison.



Video of percutaneous nephrolithotripsy procedure.



Video of percutaneous nephrolithotripsy procedure of a soft matrix stone. This type of stone is rare and primarily composed of  soft tissue elements. It is usually associated with infection.

5 Responses to Percutaneous nephrolithotripsy

  1. Katie says:

    I have been advised two different types of treatment from two different urologist and am unsure of which is best.

    1- remove kidney

    2- PCNL

    My right kidney is dramatically smaller than my left. The right kidney function is 17% with a complete stag horn stone 4cm+. The left is healthy except for a 1cm stone inside the kidney tissue.

    They have advised the PCNL will take 3 different surgeries to complete. Which sounds a bit daunting.

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  2. Geedee says:

    Hi can anyone share with me recovery time after a PCNL (hopefully please without a second stent !) I read it is 3 or so days in hospital a week recovery and full recovered in two weeks … I’m due a pcnl on 4th June, is it safe to go on holiday (Europe flight) 16th?? Any views appreciated. Ps had this stent for 7 weeks no respite from pain ! And now peeing random blood clots !

    • maryann ferns says:

      I’ve had numerous stents over the last 35 years and my best advise for stent discomfort is to keep something in the bladder. Always be drinking something. In an empty bladder the stent ends rub the walls of the bladder but having liquid in there causes them to float freely.good luck.

  3. Pingback: Kidney Stones During Pregnancy |

  4. Sudhir kute says:

    I hv ben operated under pcnl kideny stone peocedure on 2/5/13. While surgery two times incision done on my back.
    Still today fluid is continue frm my back.
    I want to know why this happens
    Req suggestion
    Sudhir kute

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