The field of urolithiasis has undergone many rapid changes in the last 3 decades. In this article, three eminent experts in various fields of urolithiasis research describe their respective visions for the future in stone research, stone treatment and surgical training. Many stone researchers have seen and regretted that there has not been a real breakthrough for decades now. Exceptions are the application of citrate prophylaxis and the abandonment of calcium-avoiding diet in stone formers. Certain areas of stone research have been exhausted and the body of literature available should suffice as background knowledge in those. Yet, to find meaningful mechanisms of clinically applicable stone prevention, the limited funds which are currently available should be used to research priority areas, of which crystal-cell interaction is envisioned by one of the present authors as being a crucial direction in future stone research. In the opinion of the second author, surgical stone treatment is very much technology-driven. This applies to the evolution of existing technologies and instruments. In addition, robotics, IT and communication software, and artificial intelligence are promising and are steadily making a meaningful impact in medicine in general, and endourology in particular. Finally, the third author believes that despite the exciting advances in technology, the role of the surgeon can never be replaced. The idea of a fully automated, artificially thinking and robotically performing system treating patients medically and surgically will not appeal to urologists or patients but may at least be a partial reality. His vision therefore is that surgical training will have to take on a new dimension, away from the patient and towards virtual reality, until the skill set is acceptably developed.
Urolithiasis. 2018 Oct 29 [Epub ahead of print]
A Rodgers, A Trinchieri, M H Ather, N Buchholz, U-Merge Scientific Office
Department of Chemistry, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa., Department of Urology, Manzoni Hospital, Lecco, Italy., Department of Urology, The Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan., Sobeh's Vascular and Medical Centre, Dubai, UAE. .