Kidney stones are solid accumulations of material that form through precipitation in the tubal system of the kidney. Kidney stones cause problems when they block the flow of urine through or out of the kidney. When the stones move along the ureter, they cause severe pain.
Gallbladder stones are also solid accumulations of material that form through precipitation in the liver and then move into the gall bladder. They cause problems when they block the flow of bile out of the liver or out of the gall bladder. They can cause attacks of gall bladder disease (cholecystitis), hepatitis or pancreatitis. They can also cause severe pain.
The purpose of analyzing kidney and gallbladder stones is to determine the source of the stones. Different materials can form stones. Once the source of the stones is known, steps can be taken to prevent subsequent formation.
An adequately stocked laboratory is needed for accurate analysis of stones. The most difficult aspect of stone analysis is obtaining the stones.
Passing a kidney stone is exquisitely painful. Once passed, persons with stones must strain their urine to recover any stones. Retrieving a kidney stone is painful for the person experiencing the stone. It also requires skill on the part of an operator to retrieve the stone.
A gallbladder stone must also be obtained before chemical analysis can be performed. Gallbladder stones can become lodges at several locations and cause considerable pain and discomfort. Retrieving a stone usually requires surgery. Commonly, the gallbladder is removed in the process of collecting a stone.
L. Fleming Fallon Jr., MD, DrPH, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,