Leading surgeon warns of nation's kidney stone 'epidemic'

A leading surgeon has warned the country is facing a kidney stone “epidemic” – with one in seven people now likely to require hospital treatment for the condition.

Bhaskar Somani, a consultant urological surgeon at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said a combination of obesity, poor hydration, high blood pressure and a lack of exercise among the population had led to a “surge” in cases.

He spoke out following his study which found the number of hospital admissions for kidney – or renal – stone treatment in England had increased by 20% in seven years, from 77,868 in 2006-07 to 93,039 in 2013-14.

“Incidence of stone disease in England has historically been reported at 10%, but the current data suggests that figure now stands at 14% – which means one in seven people will require hospital admission or treatment,” explained Mr Somani, who co-authored the research.

“Poor diet, hydration and a lack of exercise plays a significant role in the development of kidney stones and the concern is that, with a surge in admissions and the growing obesity crisis, we could see cases of stone disease reach epidemic proportions.”

The condition develops when crystals of salt accumulate into stone-like lumps which are not flushed out of the body.

Although the body tries to pass stones out of the urinary system, they often lodge in the kidney tube and cause severe abdominal and groin pain which, in many cases, can only be corrected through surgery.

While stones have tended to affect mainly people between the ages of 20 and 60 years, the study – published in the journal Urologia Internationalis – showed the most significant increases in hospital admissions were among 60 to 74-year-olds (35%) and those aged 75 and over (51%).

For those aged between 15 and 59, the number of admissions rose by 12% over the same period.

Mr Somani, who is based at Southampton General Hospital, said the increases correlated with the rising prevalence of obesity among adults in England, which increased from 14.9% 1993 to 25.6% in 2014 and is expected to affect 60% of men and 50% of women by 2050.

“There is a direct link between being overweight or obese and the development of kidney stones and, with obesity set to increase dramatically by 2050, the condition is set to continue rising – with many people set to suffer the consequences and a significant strain being placed on the NHS,” he explained.

“Excessive animal protein, salt and sugar intake – which is a significant problem due to the wide availability of processed foods – fuels the build-up of chemicals in the urine which exacerbate stone formation.

“When poor diet is combined with lack of hydration and low levels of exercise – if any – it creates the ideal environment for stones to develop and yet another reason to take care of your health and weight.”

Mr Somani said all adults could make an immediate improvement to their lifestyles and routines by aiming to drink between two to three litres of water a day to reduce the risk of developing stones, while those who have previously suffered from the condition should maintain a daily intake of three litres or more to avoid recurrence.

He added: “It may seem like a minor intervention, but better hydration is a quick and easy intervention that can help to avoid the development of stones and really kick-start a healthier lifestyle which will have many more positive benefits.”

Posted on Tuesday 1 November 2016