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Alternative Names Return to topExtracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy; Shock wave lithotripsy; Laser lithotripsy; Percutaneous lithotripsy; Endoscopic lithotripsy; ESWL
Definition Return to top
Lithotripsy is a medical procedure that uses shock waves to break up stones in the kidney, bladder, or ureter (tube that carries urine from your kidneys to your bladder). After the procedure, the tiny pieces of stones pass out of your body in your urine.
Description Return to top
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is the most common type of lithotripsy. "Extracorporeal" means outside the body.
You will wear a medical gown and lie on an exam table on top of a soft, water-filled cushion. You will be given a mild sedative or pain medicine before the procedure starts. You will also be given antibiotics before the procedure starts to prevent infection.
High-energy shock waves, also called sound waves, will pass through your body until they hit the kidney stones. You may feel a tapping sensation when this starts. The waves break the stones into tiny pieces.
The lithotripsy procedure generally takes 45 minutes to 1 hour.
A tube may be placed through your back and into your kidney. This tube will drain urine from your kidney until all the small pieces of stone pass out of your body. The tube may be put in place before or after your lithotripsy treatment.
See also: Percutaneous urinary procedures
Why the Procedure is Performed Return to top
Lithotripsy is used to remove kidney stones that are causing:
Risks Return to top
Lithotripsy is generally safe. Ask your doctor about these possible complications.
Before the Procedure Return to top
Always tell your doctor or nurse:
During the days before the surgery:
On the day of your procedure:
After the Procedure Return to top
After the procedure, you will stay in the recovery room for up to about 2 hours. Most people are able to go home the day of their procedure.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
How well you do depends on the number of stones you have, their size, and where in your urinary system they are. Usually, lithotripsy completely removes the stones.
References Return to top
Lingeman JE, Matlaga BR, Evan AP. Surgical management of upper urinary tract calculi. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology, 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2007:chap 44.
Wen CC, Nakada SY. Treatment selection and outcomes: renal calculi. Urol Clin North Am. 2007;34(3):409-419.Update Date: 1/15/2009 Updated by: Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Urology, Department of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.