Kidney Stone Disintegration - Lithotripsy

In this procedure, shock waves are used to break up stones inside a kidney or ureter.

In this procedure, shock waves are used to break up stones inside a kidney or ureter.

Lithotripsy is a procedure that uses shock waves to break up stones inside the bladder, kidneys or ureters. (Ureters are tubes that drain urine from the kidney to the bladder.) The small pieces are then passed out of the body in the urine.

  • The most common type of lithotripsy is called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). During this procedure, shock waves are directed at the stones from outside the body. Stones that are less than 2 centimeters are usually treated with ESWL.
  • It is important to note that not all kidney stones can be treated by lithotripsy. Surgery may be needed to remove large stones in the kidney.

Lithotripsy can be recommended for several reasons based on problems caused by the stone, including:

  • Severe pain
  • Repeated urinary tract infections
  • Kidney damage
  • Recurrent bleeding
  • Increasing stone size
  • Urinary tract blockage

Lithotripsy can be done in an outpatient hospital setting or an ambulatory surgery center (ASC). During the procedure, you will lay on a soft cushion filled with water. You will be given medication to keep you comfortable and an antibiotic to prevent infection. You may feel some tapping and discomfort as the shock waves go through your body and break up the stones. The procedure typically takes about an hour and no surgical incision is needed.

  • A tube may need to be placed in your kidney to drain out the urine and remove all the pieces of stone.
  • In some cases you made need general anesthesia. This will put you into a deep sleep so that you are unable to see, hear or feel anything.
  • You should make plans to have someone drive you home after the procedure.

Prior to the procedure, tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Ask about specific instructions you should follow before the procedure. These may include:

  • Medications you should not take before the surgery, such as blood thinners
  • Regular medications you should take on the day of your procedure
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before the procedure

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a lithotripsy?

  • What is my diagnosis and reason for the procedure?
  • What are the possible complications for this procedure?
  • Are there any alternatives to this procedure? What are the benefits and risks of each?
  • Is there any special preparation for the procedure? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.)
  • What type of sedation will I have? What are the possible side effects?
  • How will I feel after the procedure and will I have to modify my activity?

After your lithotripsy, your healthcare provider should let you know what you had done and what medication was given. He/she should also provide a description of any problems found during the procedure and how they were handled. Make sure you understand all home care instructions, including:

  • Medications and side effects
  • What symptoms to report to your healthcare provider
  • Follow-up plans


Also known as:

Stones in Kidney
Shock Wave Lithotripsy
Laser Lithotripsy
Kidney Stones
Kidney Stone Disintegration - Lithotripsy
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy
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