Since the early days of medicine one concern of doctors has been the removal of kidney stones and prevention of recurrence. Owing to the hesitancy of progress in the prevention of initial stone formation and of relapse, however, removal of stones from the kidney and ureter were developed to highly refined techniques and they formerly accounted for a major proportion of the urological operations performed. In the last few years developments in the treatment of kidney stones have taken a completely different turn. In the majority of cases suit able methods are available to bring about spontaneous passage of the stones, while in a smaller proportion drug-induced litholysis is pos sible. Stones that cannot be passed are now treated mainly with extra corporeal shockwave lithotripsy, percutaneous litholapaxy or uretero renoscopy. These methods are often used in combination and comple ment each other. Nonetheless, despite the accumulating experience with the new methods there will still be situations in which stones can not be removed except by open surgery. "Our skill as surgeons and the management of the brilliantly designed equipment would amount to nothing more than highly skilled mechanical work if they did not go hand in hand with enhanced insight into the cause of lithiasis and thus into ways of preventing it - or at least of preventing the relapse that is the lot of most patients.