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.
At the clinic or doctor's office, you may get medicine to make you relaxed and help with pain or discomfort. The doctor will use an X-ray to find the stone.
You will lie on a table, in most cases on top of a water-filled cushion. The lithotripsy machine directs sound waves at your stone through this cushion. After the machine starts, you may hear a popping sound and feel a thump at your side. Do not move until you are told to do so. If you have any pain, tell the doctor.
The doctor may use a small, flexible tube called a stent. The doctor puts the stent inside the ureter. This is one of the tubes that takes urine from your kidneys to your bladder. The stent will let the stone pass more easily.
Your doctor may remove the stent in a few weeks.
Most people are at the doctor's office or clinic for about 2 hours. You can go back to your normal routine right away.
Most stones pass within 24 hours after the procedure. But it can take as long as several weeks. If you have a large stone, you may need to come back for several treatments. In some cases lithotripsy does not break up the stones. Surgery may be needed to remove them.
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 call line 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.
Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.
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Current as of: March 14, 2018
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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