Shock Wave Lithotripsy: What to Expect at Home
Lithotripsy is a way to treat kidney stones without surgery. It is also called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, or ESWL. This treatment uses sound waves to break kidney stones into tiny pieces. These pieces can then pass out of the body in the urine.
You may have a small amount of blood in your urine after this treatment. Your urine may be slightly pink or reddish. The blood in the urine often goes away after 2 days.
You may have a plastic tube inside one of your ureters. Ureters are the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. The plastic tube is called a stent. It takes urine from your kidney to your bladder. This lets the stone pass more easily. Your doctor may remove the stent in about a week or two.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Rest as much as you need to after you go home.
- You may do your regular activities. But avoid hard exercise or sports for a week. Wait until there is no blood in your urine and the stent is out.
- You can eat your normal diet.
- Drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also be given instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
- Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol). Do not take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), or similar medicines unless your doctor tells you to.
- Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
- Urinate through the strainer the doctor gives you. Save any stone pieces, including those that look like sand or gravel. Take these to your doctor. This will help your doctor find the cause of your stones.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- You have new or more blood clots in your urine. (It is normal for the urine to be pink for a few days.)
- You cannot urinate.
- You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. These may include:
- Pain or burning when you urinate.
- A frequent need to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
- Pain in the flank, which is just below the rib cage and above the waist on either side of the back.
- Blood in the urine.
- A fever.
- You are sick to your stomach or cannot drink fluids.
- You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
- Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in your leg.
Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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Current as of: May 4, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Mitchell H. Rosner MD - Nephrology