Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy

Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy is the most commonly prescribed treatment for kidney stones. The technique uses shockwaves to break up stones so that they can easily pass through the urinary tract. Most people can resume normal activities within a few days. Complications of extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy include blood in the urine, bruising, and minor discomfort in the back or abdomen.

What Is Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy?

Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL) is the most frequently used procedure for the treatment of kidney stones. ESWL uses shock waves to break up kidney stones so that they can easily pass through the urinary tract.
 

How Does This Procedure Work?

In extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy, shockwaves that are created outside the body travel through the skin and body tissues until they hit the denser kidney stones. After the stones have been hit, they will break down into sand-like particles that are easily passed through the urinary tract in the urine.
 

Types of Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy

There are several types of extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy devices. One type of device requires the person to lie in a water bath while the shockwaves are transmitted. Another type of device requires the person to lie on a soft cushion. Most devices use x-rays or ultrasounds to help surgeons pinpoint the stone during treatment. For most types of ESWL procedures, anesthesia is required.
 

Recovering From Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy

In most cases, extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy may be done on an outpatient basis because recovery time is short. Most people can resume normal activities a few days after the procedure.
 

Possible Complications of Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy

Complications may occur with extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy, including:
 
  • Blood in the urine
  • Bruising
  • Minor discomfort in the back or abdomen (stomach).
 
To reduce the risk of complications, healthcare providers will usually tell patients to avoid aspirin and other drugs that affect blood clotting for several weeks before treatment.
 
Another complication of extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy is discomfort, which may occur as the shattered stone particles pass through the urinary tract. In some cases, the healthcare provider will insert a small tube called a stent through the bladder into the ureter to help the fragments pass.
 
Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy is not recommended for large kidney stones, and if the stone is not completely shattered with one treatment, additional treatments may be needed.
 

Treatment for Kidney Stones

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