Bladder Calculi

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1- Introduction

2- Anatomical Overview

3- Causes

4- Treatment


Bladder calculi, also known as bladder stones, are mineral deposits that form in the bladder. These stones can vary in size, from being as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. They are primarily composed of minerals such as calcium oxalate, uric acid, or struvite, and their formation is often associated with conditions that affect urinary tract health, such as urinary tract infections, enlarged prostate, bladder dysfunction, or urinary stasis.

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Anatomical Overview

  • Bladder Anatomy:

    • The bladder is a hollow, muscular organ located in the pelvis. Its primary function is to store urine produced by the kidneys until it is expelled from the body through the urethra.
    • The bladder has several layers: the innermost mucosa, the submucosa, a muscular layer (detrusor muscle), and an outer layer of connective tissue.
    • At the base of the bladder, the urethra connects, allowing urine to pass out of the body.
  • Formation of Bladder Calculi:

    • Bladder stones develop when minerals in urine crystallize and clump together. This typically occurs when urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to precipitate out and form stones.
    • Factors contributing to stone formation include:
      • Dehydration, which leads to concentrated urine.
      • Urinary stasis, where urine remains in the bladder for extended periods, allowing minerals to settle and form stones.
      • Urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can alter the pH of urine and promote stone formation.
      • Certain metabolic conditions, such as hypercalciuria (high levels of calcium in urine) or hyperoxaluria (high levels of oxalate in urine), can predispose individuals to stone formation.
  • Location and Size:

    • Bladder stones can vary in size from very small, gravel-like particles to larger stones that may fill a significant portion of the bladder.
    • They can be single or multiple, and their location within the bladder can vary. They may be found anywhere within the bladder, including near the bladder neck or attached to the bladder wall.
  • Effects and Symptoms:

    • Bladder calculi can cause various symptoms, including:
      • Frequent urination.
      • Difficulty urinating or weak urine stream.
      • Lower abdominal or pelvic pain.
      • Hematuria (blood in the urine).
      • Painful urination (dysuria).
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  • Urinary Stasis: When urine remains stagnant in the bladder for extended periods, minerals have more time to precipitate out and form stones. Conditions that can lead to urinary stasis include incomplete bladder emptying due to urinary tract obstruction, neurogenic bladder dysfunction, or anatomical abnormalities.

  • Dehydration: Inadequate fluid intake can lead to concentrated urine, which increases the risk of mineral crystallization and stone formation. Dehydration can occur due to insufficient fluid intake, excessive sweating, or certain medical conditions.

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Infections in the urinary tract can alter the pH balance of urine, making it more conducive to the formation of certain types of stones. For example, UTIs caused by urease-producing bacteria can lead to the formation of struvite stones, composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate.

  • Metabolic Factors: Certain metabolic conditions or abnormalities in urine composition can predispose individuals to bladder stone formation. Examples include:

    • Hypercalciuria: Elevated levels of calcium in urine.
    • Hyperoxaluria: Elevated levels of oxalate in urine.
    • Hyperuricosuria: Elevated levels of uric acid in urine.
    • Cystinuria: Inherited disorder causing increased levels of cystine in urine.
  • Bladder Outlet Obstruction: Conditions that obstruct the flow of urine from the bladder can contribute to stone formation by causing urinary stasis and promoting the concentration of minerals. Common causes of bladder outlet obstruction include benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate), urethral strictures, bladder neck contractures, or pelvic organ prolapse.

  • Foreign Bodies: Rarely, bladder stones can form around foreign objects or materials that have entered the bladder. These objects may include medical devices, such as indwelling catheters or bladder stones introduced during bladder augmentation surgery.

  • Dietary Factors: Certain dietary habits or imbalances can increase the risk of bladder stone formation. For example, a diet high in sodium, animal protein, or oxalate-rich foods may contribute to stone formation in susceptible individuals.


  • Observation: Small bladder stones that are asymptomatic or causing minimal symptoms may be managed through observation, especially if they are likely to pass spontaneously. Monitoring the stones with regular follow-up appointments and assessing for any changes or worsening of symptoms is essential in this approach.

  • Medications: Certain medications may help manage bladder stones or reduce the risk of stone formation:

    • Antibiotics: If a urinary tract infection (UTI) is present or suspected, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection and prevent stone growth.
    • Alkalinizing agents: In cases where acidic urine pH contributes to stone formation, medications that alkalinize the urine may be prescribed to prevent further stone development.
  • Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL): This non-invasive procedure uses shock waves to break up bladder stones into smaller fragments that can be more easily passed through the urinary tract. ESWL is typically performed under sedation or anesthesia and may be suitable for smaller stones.

  • Transurethral Cystolitholapaxy: This minimally invasive procedure involves using a cystoscope inserted through the urethra to locate and fragment bladder stones. A laser, ultrasound, or mechanical device is then used to break up the stones, which are then removed or flushed out of the bladder.

  • Open Surgery (Cystolithotomy): In cases where bladder stones are large, numerous, or cannot be effectively treated with less invasive methods, open surgery may be necessary. During cystolithotomy, an incision is made in the bladder to access and remove the stones manually.

  • Preventive Measures: After treatment, preventive measures may be recommended to reduce the risk of bladder stone recurrence. These measures may include:

    • Increasing fluid intake to maintain adequate hydration and prevent urine concentration.
    • Dietary modifications to reduce the intake of substances that contribute to stone formation, such as sodium, oxalate, or animal protein.
    • Treating underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of stone formation, such as urinary tract infections, urinary tract obstructions, or metabolic disorders.
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