Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a nonsurgical treatment for stones in the kidney and ureter. It uses high-energy shock waves to break kidney stones into tiny pieces. The pieces can then be passed with urine.
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Lithotripsy is used to remove kidney stones that:
Most people who have lithotripsy for kidney stones are free of stones within three months of treatment. Patients with stones in the kidney and upper ureter have the most success with treatment. There may be fragments that are too large to pass after the procedure. They can be treated with lithotripsy again.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have this procedure, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Your doctor may do the following:
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
Heavy sedation or general anesthesia is usually used. Heavy sedation will keep you calm. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep. It will help you remain still and avoid discomfort.
You will be placed on a table attached to the lithotripsy equipment. You will lie on top of a soft cushion or membrane through which the waves pass. Your doctor will use x-rays or ultrasound to locate the stone. Your body will be positioned to target the stone. One to three thousand shock waves will be passed through the stones until they are crushed. They will be crushed into pieces as small as grains of sand.
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. There may be some pain and discomfort afterward from the passage of broken stones. There may also be some bruising on the area treated. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medicine.
You will be able to move almost immediately after the procedure. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions , which may include:
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Urologic Association Foundation
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse
National Kidney Foundation
Canadian Urological Association
The Kidney Foundation of Canada: Northern Alberta and the Territories Branch
Kidney stones in adults. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/stonesadult. Accessed June 24, 2008.
Lithotripsy. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lithotripsy.cfm. Accessed June 24, 2008.
Surgical management of stones. American Urological Association website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=32. Accessed November 10, 2009.
Wein. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 9th ed. Maryland, MO: Saunders; 2007.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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