Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy, or PCNL, is a procedure for removing medium-sized or larger kidney stones from the patient’s urinary tract by means of a nephroscope passed into the kidney through a track created in the patient’s back. The term “percutaneous” means that the procedure is done through the skin and Nephrolithotomy is a term formed from two Greek words that mean “kidney” and “removing stones by cutting.”
Kidney stones range in size from microscopic groups of crystals to objects as large as golf balls. Most calculi, however, pass through the urinary tract without causing problems. They are formed when the urine becomes supersaturated (overloaded) with mineral compounds that can form stones. This super saturation may occur because the patient has low urinary output, is excreting too much salt, or has very acid urine. The purpose of PCNL is the removal of renal calculi in order to relieve pain, bleeding into or obstruction of the urinary tract, and/or urinary tract infections resulting from blockages.