Sepsis and Kidney Stones

People who have had kidney stones say there is nothing more painful. Kidney stones can develop in one or both kidneys. Some people get one kidney stone in their lifetime; others can get them more often.

Urine has no solids, but there are times when the crystals in urine join together to form a stone. Although several substances can form stones, the four most common are made of:

  • Calcium – common and can recur
  • Cystine – an amino acid
  • Struvite – develop as a result of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Uric acid – a crystalline compound

Your kidneys are the beginning or top part of your urinary system. Urine is filtered in the kidneys and comes down through the ureters into your bladder, one from each kidney. The urine is held in the urinary bladder until it is emptied when the urine passes through the urethra and out the urethral opening.

A risk with kidney stones is a kidney infection, which can lead to sepsis.

Sepsis is a life-threatening emergency that happens when your body’s response to an infection damages vital organs and, often, causes death. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Suggested Citation:
Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis and Kidney Stones. 2024. https://www.sepsis.org/sepsisand/kidney-stones/

Updated February 16, 2024.

 

More About Kidney Stones

Causes

While we don’t know what causes stones to form, we do know that some stones form more easily than others. Dehydration and not consuming enough fluids can contribute to stone formation, as there may not be enough urine to wash out microscopic crystals.

Calcium stones, the most common kidney stones, seem to affect more men than women, and they are most often in the twenties when it happens.

Risks include:

  • Too much calcium in the urine caused by diseases, such as hyperparathyroidism
  • Having too much sodium, usually taken in through salt

Although food doesn’t cause stone formation, some people may be told to avoid high calcium foods if they are prone to developing stones.

Cystine stones are caused by a disorder that runs in families.

Struvite stones are virtually always caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI) due to an enzyme secreted by certain types of bacteria. Because people with shorter urethras have more UTIs, they also tend to develop more struvite stones. These stones can grow very large and block the kidney, ureter, or bladder.

Uric acid stones affect more men than women, and they can also occur in people who already get calcium stones. People who have high uric acid levels may have or develop gout.

Symptoms

Some people don’t feel kidney stones until they move and try to exit the kidney. Some symptoms include:

  • Sharp, severe, cramping pain in the abdomen or side of the back
  • Pain can move to the groin or testicular area
  • Blood in the urine
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
Treatment

Because of the intense pain often caused by kidney stones, many people need pain relief. Many describe it as the worst pain they’ve ever felt.

If you have a kidney stone, you will be encouraged to drink a lot of water if you don’t have a medical condition that limits the amount you may have. The extra fluid is to help wash the stone through your urinary system.

If the stone doesn’t pass within a reasonable amount of time, your doctor may recommend extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL).  Shock waves are sent through to the stone to break them down into smaller pieces that can be passed. Sometimes, surgery may be needed.

The stone should be removed because of the high risk of infection, which could – in turn – lead to sepsis.

Prevention

While not all kidney stones can be prevented, there are ways to lower your risk of developing one or developing another one. The first and foremost way would be to drink enough fluids to ensure your urinary system gets flushed out well.

Your doctor could recommend avoiding certain types of foods, but that is an individual call. For certain types of stones, sometimes medications are prescribed to help reduce the risk.

Related Resources

Information Guide

Kidney Stones

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Mariane G.

In October 2023 I was at work and noticed that my urine was very orange at that time. I thought I was just very dehydrated but I was actually internally bleeding. Collapsed at work, had fevers was vomiting and was in excruciating pain as well as having very strange hallucinations! (Sepsis and Hallucinations) I had no idea what was going on. I ended up in hospital after colleague and my husband found me! I ended up having to have surgery the day after because I had become septic and had acute kidney failure, and my liver was also starting to ... Read Full Story

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Frank B.

This is my story. I am 64 years old. My encounter with septic shock took place in June 2023. I was driving a tractor trailer in an Over the Road capacity working towards a client in East Peoria, IL. What led to my stay in the ICU of a hospital in Urbana IL was a kidney stone roughly 1 cm in diameter dropping out of my kidney and blocking the passageway (ureter) to the bladder. (Sepsis and Kidney Stones) Urine backed up leading to the sepsis condition. My recollection of my condition constituted a diminished capacity to safely operate the ... Read Full Story

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Teresa Ray

Teresa Ray passed away May 26th, 2023, 1pm, from complications from septic shock. She was diagnosed with sepsis from cellulitis and kidney stone that lead to a kidney infection April 14th, 2023. (Sepsis and Septic Shock, Sepsis and Cellulitis, Sepsis and Kidney Stones) She had emergency surgery April 14th, 2023. Further testing was done April 21st, 2023, diagnosed with a neck infection and came home with me April 28th, 2023 on PICC line antibiotic treatment. May 10th 2023 I was talking to her 1 minute and next minute she had a seizure and called 911. I went with her to ... Read Full Story

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Kimberly Perschka

I had a kidney stone that was taken out. The doctor put a stint in for draining. After is was taken out within a few days I started filling bad. In the middle of the night I felt like I was coming down with the flu. (Sepsis and Kidney Stones) Started aching around my shoulders. The next morning, I asked my sister who was staying with me at the time if she would stay out of work and take care of me and my special needs son. She took me to a first care unit, and they said my white ... Read Full Story

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Jason Lawnichak

What started as a kidney stone soon became the worse experience of my life. (Sepsis and Kidney Stones) By the time I made it to the hospital I was throwing up everything. I had sepsis and my organs began to shut down. This was followed a heart attack. I lost over 35 pounds during that stay. I spent 6 days in the ICU at which time the doctors informed wife and other family members to prepare for my passing that night. I don’t really remember much of the hospital from that time. I for some reason demanded to be allowed ... Read Full Story

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Kidney Stones