Objective: To define how the learning curve for success in ultrasound-guided percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) is impacted by body mass index (BMI). Previous research has shown ultrasound-guided PCNL to be an effective method of nephrolithiasis treatment comparable to fluoroscopy-guided PCNL. A common concern for the ultrasound-guided approach is potential imaging difficulty in the obese patient population. Methods: A prospective cohort study of consecutive patients undergoing PCNL with ultrasound guidance for renal tract access was performed. Clinical data collected included success in gaining renal access with ultrasound guidance, patient BMI, and clinical outcomes over time. Nonparametric LOWESS regression modeling was performed in R using locally weighted scatterplot smoother (R version 3.3.3) for gradations of patients by BMI group (<30, 30-40, and >40). Results: A total of 150 cases were examined. Case number and BMI were evaluated as continuous variables. Multivariate logistic regression revealed that BMI (P =.010; OR 0.93) and case number (P<.001; OR 1.03) were significantly correlated with ultrasound success. Sex, age, hydronephrosis, stone type, puncture location, and stone size did not influence success at obtaining ultrasound-only access in a statistically significant fashion. LOWESS regression modeling of the relationship between case number and renal access success depicts that the curve representative of the BMI >40 group is downward and right-shifted relative to the other two groups. Conclusion: The learning curve for successful ultrasound-guided PCNL is impacted by patient's BMI as well as case number. Increasing BMI makes access more challenging when performing ultrasound-guided PCNL.
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