Most people with kidney stones won’t need surgery. Doctors consider it only if simpler treatments aren’t effective or not an option. For instance, you might need surgery for stones that: Are too large to pass through the urinary tract on their own Become lodged in your urinary tract Block the flow of urine Cause repeated urinary tract infections or bleeding Cause severe pain Damage the kidneys Have an irregular shape During and After Kidney Stone Surgery Doctors today almost always use minimally invasive surgery to remove kidney stones. That means they work through a small incision. This should speed up your recovery. The surgery is percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL). Your doctor will make a small incision in your back or side. A thin tube is put through this opening and guided into the kidney. X-ray imaging helps your doctor guide the tube. The doctor then passes a special tool with a tiny camera on it through the tube to reach the stone. The doctors might suction the stone through the tube in once piece. Or, the doctor might use a tool that delivers shockwaves to break the kidney stone into pieces before removing it. The medical term for this variation of the surgery is percutaneous nephrolithotripsy. You won't be awake for these surgeries. You also won't feel any pain during the operation. Your doctor will give you medicine (general anesthesia) to make you sleep through the surgery. How long your surgery takes will depend on the size and location of your kidney stone. Kidney stone surgery can take up to four hours. What to expect after surgery: You won’t be able to go home right away. Most people stay in the hospital for two to three days. You'll probably need to recover at home for several more days. You may not be able to go to work or school for a week or two. Your doctor may leave a tube in your kidney to help urine drain from your body. You may need to measure how much urine you make for 24 hours after your surgery. Your doctor may want to test the mineral levels in your urine to assess your future risk for kidney stones. Risks and Benefits of Kidney Stone Surgery Kidney stone surgery is considered very safe. Still, all surgeries involve some risk, and it’s important to understand them. For instance, people sometimes develop problems like infection or bleeding. There's also a small chance that another organ—your bladder, bowel, liver, pancreas or spleen—could be injured during the surgery. Kidney surgery also could lead to high blood pressure or loss of kidney function later in life. This is rare, however. Scar tissue could form after your surgery. That could make another operation necessary. It's also possible your doctor may not be able to remove the entire kidney stone or stones. However, surgery is better at clearing all stones at one time than other treatment options. If complications might arise, “open” surgery may be necessary. For open surgery, doctors make a larger cut in the side or back to get right to the stone. Although a switch from minimally invasive to open surgery is very rare, it does require a longer recovery time. In the vast majority of cases, the benefit of kidney stone surgery far outweighs the risks, and patients with successful outcomes enjoy the biggest benefit of kidney stone surgery: Your kidney stone—and the pain it caused you—will be gone.