By William Blaylock, M.D.
Sweet iced tea has been called “the house wine of the South,” and a tall, cold glass of it is a great way to take the edge off a hot summer day. Could, however, our beloved beverage at least partially explain the high incidence of kidney stones in our part of the country?
Dr. William Blaylock, a urologist with Bay Urology, says that tea (like many other foods) contains oxalate, a compound that has been implicated in kidney stone formation. “Dietary choices may help explain the South’s high rate of kidney stones, and genetics may be a factor,” said Dr. Blaylock. “Our hot summer temperatures can lead to dehydration, which we know is a major cause.”
Regardless of the cause, kidney stones are often excruciatingly painful. Women who have been through pregnancy and kidney stones often say that the kidney stones are worse. “I had one patient who delivered eleven children with natural childbirth, and she told me that she would take a natural delivery any day over the pain she had with a kidney stone,” said Dr. Blaylock.
When a kidney stone strikes, therefore, patients want quick, effective treatment. To treat this condition, Providence Hospital offers lithotripsy, a non-surgical procedure that uses shock waves to break up kidney stones within the kidney itself or the top half of the ureter (the tube that drains urine from the kidney into the bladder). “The lithotripsy unit is available at Providence two days per week, which is far beyond what most hospitals our size offer,” said Dr. Blaylock. “We can place a stent (a device used to hold the ureter open) and give pain medications, and keep the patient comfortable until we can schedule a lithotripsy procedure,” said Dr. Blaylock.
Lithotripsy has been used to treat kidney stones for nearly twenty years, but unlike the original technology, the device used at Providence does not require the patient to be placed in a large tank of water. Essentially, Dr. Blaylock explained, the shock waves are transmitted through a water-filled balloon on the lithotripsy device, which is then placed in contact with the patient. The procedure takes about twenty minutes, is done on an outpatient basis, and in many cases, can be done under intravenous sedation rather than general anesthesia.
Having lithotripsy at Providence means that the hospital has a complete urology program, “Our lithotripsy equipment is state-of-the-art, and Providence has an excellent urology team,” said Dr. Blaylock. While not every kidney stone can be treated with lithotripsy, Providence offers a variety of treatment options as part of its full-service program. “Any stone that comes in our door, we can treat,” says Dr. Blaylock.