How To: Remove a bladder stone in the days before anesthesia


47 Responses to “How To: Remove a bladder stone in the days before anesthesia”

  1. millie fink says:

    So basically, a bladder stone is a turd that ends up in the wrong part of the body?

  2. oschene says:

    Samuel Pepys was cut for the stone on March 26, 1658 and lived on for many years after. A discussion can be found here:

  3. OldBrownSquirrel says:

    Were bladder stones more common in those days? Or is it just that we hear about them less often today because they’re more easily treated?

  4. grimatongueworm says:

    Ask Neal Stephenson.

  5. Blaine says:

    If memory serves, that was part of the Hippoctratic Oath, that you would not cut for stones. It was saved for specialists.

  6. EvilPRGuy says:

    Wow, this completely derailed my breakfast eating. I actually had trouble reading that description. I had kidney stones a few years back, and it was far and away the most painful thing I’ve gone through (and I race bikes so I’m no stranger to broken bones and stitches). Fun Fact: I passed my kidneys stone in the pitch black during the NYC Blackout! Anesthesia, I love You!

  7. styrofoam says:

    The key takeaway I got from the Quicksilver trilogy was that bladder stones were a bitch to take out, and everybody seemed to get them.

  8. Ralph Kramden says:

    The “prostrate” gland?  Does no one edit these things?

  9. bobledrew says:

    I’ve had a few runins with bladder cancer, necessitating 3 TURBT (transurethral resection of the bladder tumour) procedures and many more cystoscopies. The TURBTs I’ve been put out for; the cystoscopies are done using a topical anasthetic. After reading this post, I will NEVER complain about the discomfort. EVER. 

  10. Mister44 says:

    OH fuck – oh fuck – oh fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck…. fffffffuuuuuucccccckkkkkkkkk!!!!

    ETA – this is the illustration that is mentioned in the article.

  11. bigorangemachine says:

    What has been read, cannot be unread.

  12. imipolex says:

    This procedure is also depicted in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. Made me squirm.

  13. Jim Saul says:

    The scenes in Deadwood were pretty hard to watch even without the cutting.  They’re not much fun, but I still don’t buy the “like giving birth” thing.  Though my youngest here is about ready to start walking on its own.

    • Marco Antonio Morales says:

      I’ve known women who have both given birth AND had kidney stones. (One in particular, had both at the same time!) – and they all concede: kidney stones are worse.

      I’ve had my share of them, and it’s a pain so striking that you are no longer able to think (except the words ‘MAKE IT STOP’) … and basically thrown up out of sheer pain when trying to convince the doctor that yes, I’ll have some anesthetics now please.

      I’m thankful I’m born in this century and not earlier, though. I surely hope for a future in which prevention becomes the best cure!

      • Jim Saul says:

        Each has been unique for me… that last one I thought was a slipped lumbar disc for a week.

        I guess I start with that experience, then project “at least it’s not a 7 pound baby”, even knowing all the reasons that’s an irrational comparison.

  14. Big thanks to Maggie Koerth-Baker for sharing this article from The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice! More gruesome entries about the history of early modern surgery to come! Please read the full story about Stephen Pollard at

  15. skabob says:

    Should have used Stephen Maturin’s suprapubic lithotomy procedure: safe and quick, and only 40% mortality rate.

  16. Ian Wood says:

    Oh! Sort of like a thesis defense, then

  17. CH says:

    Do I remember totally wrong, or wasn’t there somebody who did the same to himself? Hmm… gotta go google… back in a sec… Ah, yes…

    Kids, don’t try this at home!

  18. Teirhan says:

    i’ve tried and failed to come up with a cogent response to this article, so here is my original response:

    eughhhhhhhh. *clutches protectively at his nethers*

  19. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I had a stone in my ureter.  In order to do lithotripsy (blasting with sound waves), they had to insert a catheter and push the jagged rock back through my narrow, little ureter (a procedure called a pushback) until it was in my Ureteropelvic Junction, where it could be blasted.  Then I got to pass the fragments through my scraped up ureter for a few days.

    • Marco Antonio Morales says:

      Ouch, dude!!!!
      - – -
      Strangely enough, I feel a deep empathic ‘survivor’ connection to other stone sufferers. A ‘you know, and I know – what we both know’ type empathy. You piss rocks, you got my respect.

    • patrick dodds says:

      I don’t suppose any of that hurt much Antinous?

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        For about a week afterward, I would have a spasm in that brutalized ureter about once a day and end up taking 6 percodan.  I still have the occasional minor spasm 30 years later.

        When I was in the ER with the stone, I had 500 mg of Demerol IV and 50 mg of Phenergan (which potentiates the Demerol) in three hours.  Horse doses, but those of us with Scottish DNA do seem to soak up the intoxicants with great efficiency.

  20. Anne Hunter says:

    I can understand why someone would choose surgery without anesthesia to get rid of a kidney stone, for I’ve had one. It is as bad as they say, and the worst pain I’ve ever felt. The pain from the spasms was so bad, I would vomit and lose bladder/bowel control simultaneously.

  21. Festus says:

    Drink water. Drink it now.

  22. Infontology says:

    Marin Marais composed “Le tableau de l’operation de la taille” as an account of such a self-experienced operation. Here in an English language version on Spotify: 

  23. george57l says:

    I do not know offhand if it is available as a podcast (but should be on iPlayer) but this week BBC Radio 4 is serialising Samuel Pepys diary. Yesterday’s episode included a section about him describing to his friends (regaling them with his anecdote) how his stone was extracted “I was bound and gagged and …. they went up through the cods …..   and it was the size of a tennis ball” (quote may not be 100% acccurate)

    (Tennis balls may have been smaller in those days, perhaps)

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