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Definition of PNL (percutaneous nephrolithotripsy)

PNL (percutaneous nephrolithotripsy): A technique for removing large and/or dense stones and staghorn stones.

PNL is done via a port created by puncturing the kidney through the skin and enlarging the access port to 1 cm (about 3/8 inch) in diameter. There is no surgical incision.

PNL is done under anesthesia and real-time live x-ray control (fluoroscopy). Because x-rays are involved, a super-specialist in radiology (an interventional radiologist) may perform this part of the procedure.

The urologist (an endourologist, another super-specialist) then inserts instruments via this port into the kidney to break up the stone and remove most of the debris from the stone.

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