Background and Purpose: New-generation flexible ureteroscopes allow the management of proximal ureteral and intrarenal pathology with high success rates, including complete removal of ureteral and renal calculi. One problem is that the irrigation pressures generated within the collecting system can be significantly elevated, as evidenced by pyelovenous and pyelolymphatic backflow seen during retrograde pyelography. We sought to determine if the ureteral access sheath (UAS) can offer protection from high intrarenal pressures attained during routine ureteroscopic stone surgery. Patients and Methods: Five patients (average age 72.6 years) evaluated in the emergency department for obstructing calculi underwent percutaneous nephrostomy (PCN) tube placement to decompress their collecting systems. The indications for PCN tube placement were obstructive renal failure (N = 1), urosepsis (N = 2), and obstruction with uncontrolled pain and elevated white blood cell counts (N = 2). Flexible ureteroscopy was subsequently performed with and without the aid of the UAS while pressures were measured via the nephrostomy tube connected to a pressure transducer. Pressures were recorded at baseline and in the distal, mid, and proximal ureter and renal pelvis, first without the UAS, and then with the UAS in place. Results: The average baseline pressure within the collecting system was 13.6 mm Hg. The mean intrarenal pressure with the ureteroscope in the distal ureter without the UAS was 60 mm Hg and with the UAS was 15 mm Hg. With the ureteroscope in the midureter, the pressures were 65.6 and 17.5 mm Hg, respectively; with the ureteroscope in the proximal ureter 79.2 and 24 mm Hg, and with the ureteroscope in the renal pelvis 94.4 and 40.6 mm Hg, respectively. All differences at each location were statistically significant (P < 0.008). Compared with baseline, all pressures measured without the UAS were significantly greater, but only pressures recorded in the proximal ureter and renal pelvis after UAS insertion were significantly higher (P < 0.03). Conclusions: The irrigation pressures transmitted to the renal pelvis and subsequently to the parenchyma are significantly greater during routine URS without the use of the UAS. The access sheath is potentially protective against pyelovenous and pyelolymphatic backflow, with clinical implications for the ureteroscopic management of upper-tract transitional cell carcinoma, struvite stones, or calculi associated with urinary tract infection.
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