Purpose: Significant early postoperative discomfort after percutaneous procedures is usually secondary to nephrostomy tubes and externalized ureteral catheters. We describe our modification of the traditional percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) approach that we name "totally tubeless PCNL."
Patients and methods: Between June 2000 and May 2001, 60 consecutive PCNLs were performed at our centers. At the end of the surgery, we omitted the nephrostomy tube and removed the externalized catheter in selected patients: no solitary kidney, stone size <3 cm, and without any obstructions or arterial bleeding. A total of 30 patients underwent totally tubeless PCNL (group 1). We compared their results with those of a control group of 30 patients who underwent standard PCNL (group 2). The incidence of complications, analgesic requirements, length of hospitalization, and time to return to normal activities were compared in the two groups.
Results: In both groups, PCNL was performed successfully without any significant complications. A 90% stone-free rate was achieved in both groups, and in the remaining patients, small residual stones (<4 mm) were detected. No urinoma was demonstrated by postoperative ultrasound scanning in group 1. The average length of hospitalization was 1.5 days for group 1 and 3 days for group 2. The average analgesic requirements were 30 mg of pentazosin in group 1 and 90 mg in group 2. No transfusion was needed. There were three complications: 2 patients (6.6%) had urinary tract infection in group 1 and 1 (3.3%) in group 2. All were managed medically.
Conclusions: Omitting the percutaneous nephrostomy tube and removing ureteral catheter at the end of surgery in selected patients were safe and accompanied by significantly reduced postoperative discomfort, length of hospitalization, and analgesic requirements. Further studies are needed to determine the role of this technique.