Staghorn Calculus: Risk Factors, Treatment

What is Staghorn Calculus?

Staghorn calculus, also known as a staghorn stone or coral calculus, is a large kidney stone that occupies a significant portion of the renal pelvis and extends into at least two or more calyces within the kidney. These stones can grow to considerable size and pose a significant risk of complications if left untreated.

Causes of Staghorn Calculus:

Staghorn calculi typically form due to the crystallization of minerals and substances present in urine. Several factors contribute to their formation:

  1. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Chronic or recurrent UTIs can lead to the deposition of struvite or magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals, which can accumulate and form staghorn calculi.
  2. Urine pH Imbalance: An alkaline urine pH provides an ideal environment for the formation of struvite stones, which are commonly associated with staghorn calculi.
  3. Obstruction: An obstruction in the urinary tract, such as an enlarged prostate or urinary tract abnormality, can impede the flow of urine, increasing the risk of stone formation.

Symptoms of Staghorn Calculus:

Staghorn calculi can cause a range of symptoms, depending on their size and location within the kidney. Common symptoms include:

  1. Flank Pain: Persistent or intermittent pain in the side or back, typically localized to the affected kidney, is a hallmark symptom of staghorn calculi.
  2. Hematuria: Blood in the urine (hematuria) may occur due to irritation or injury to the urinary tract caused by the passage of the stone fragments.
  3. Urinary Symptoms: Patients may experience urinary urgency, frequency, or hesitancy, as well as dysuria (painful urination), especially during stone passage.
  4. Fever and Chills: In cases of associated urinary tract infection, patients may develop fever, chills, and other signs of systemic infection.

Risk Factors :

Several factors increase the risk of developing staghorn calculi, including:

  • History of recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Urinary tract abnormalities or obstructions
  • Metabolic disorders such as hyperparathyroidism or gout
  • Certain medications that predispose to stone formation
  • Inadequate fluid intake leading to concentrated urine

Complications of Staghorn Calculus

If left untreated, staghorn calculi can lead to severe complications, including:

  1. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Staghorn calculi provide a nidus for bacterial growth, increasing the risk of recurrent UTIs, pyelonephritis, and sepsis.
  2. Kidney Damage: Prolonged obstruction or infection can cause irreversible damage to the kidney, leading to impaired renal function or even kidney failure.
  3. Hydronephrosis: The accumulation of urine in the kidney due to obstruction by a staghorn calculus can result in hydronephrosis, causing pain and further compromising kidney function.

Treatment :

Treatment strategies for staghorn calculi aim to remove the stones, alleviate symptoms, and prevent recurrence. Depending on the size and location of the calculus, as well as the patient’s overall health, treatment options may include:

  1. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL): This non-invasive procedure uses shock waves to break the stone into smaller fragments, which can then pass through the urinary tract more easily.
  2. Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL): In cases of large or complex staghorn calculi, a minimally invasive surgical procedure may be performed to remove the stones through a small incision in the back.
  3. Ureteroscopy with Laser Lithotripsy: A flexible ureteroscope is inserted through the urethra and bladder to access the kidney, allowing for the direct visualization and fragmentation of the stones using laser energy.
  4. Antibiotic Therapy: Patients with concurrent urinary tract infections may require antibiotic therapy to treat the infection and prevent complications.


staghorn calculus is a significant kidney stone that can lead to debilitating symptoms and complications if left untreated. Early diagnosis and appropriate management are essential to alleviate symptoms, prevent complications, and preserve kidney function.


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