Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a nonsurgical treatment for
kidney stones. It uses high-energy shock waves to break the stones into tiny pieces. The pieces can then be passed with urine.
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Lithotripsy is used to remove kidney stones that:
- Are too large to pass
- Cause constant pain
- Block the flow of urine
- Cause an ongoing
- Damage kidney tissue
- Cause bleeding
Most people who have lithotripsy for kidney stones are free of stones within 3 months of treatment. Those 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.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Blood in the urine
- Bruising in the back or abdomen
- Pain as the stone fragments pass
- Failure of stone fragments to pass, requiring additional surgery
- Need for additional treatments
- Reaction to anesthesia
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Bleeding disorders or taking medications that reduce blood clotting
- Skeletal deformities
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam
- Blood and urine tests
- Imaging studies to help locate the stones
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
Heavy sedation or
is usually used. Heavy sedation will keep you calm. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep through the procedure.
You will be placed on a soft cushion on top of a table. Shock waves can be passed to the stones through this cushion.
ultrasound will be used
to locate the stone. Your body will be positioned to target the stone. 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 medication.
You will be able to move almost immediately after the procedure. Drink plenty of water in the weeks after the procedure to help the stone pieces pass.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Extreme urge or inability to urinate
- Excessive blood in your urine
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medications you've been given
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you've been given
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Kidney and ureteral stones: Surgical management. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=32. Updated January 2011. Accessed March 3, 2014.
Kidney stones in adults. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at:
http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/stonesadults/index.aspx. Updated January 28, 2013. Accessed March 3, 2014.
Lithotripsy. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at:
https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lithotripsy. Accessed March 3, 2014.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 17, 2014. Accessed March 3, 2014.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Adrienne Carmack, 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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