• Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy



    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.
    Kidney Stones
    Kidney Stones
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Reasons for Procedure

    Lithotripsy is used to remove kidney stones that:
    • Are too large to pass
    • Cause constant pain
    • Block the flow of urine
    • Cause an ongoing infection
    • 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.

    Possible Complications

    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
    • Obesity
    • Skeletal deformities

    What to Expect

    Prior to Procedure

    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 general anesthesia is usually used. Heavy sedation will keep you calm. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep through the procedure.

    Description of 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.
    X-rays or 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.

    How Long Will It Take?

    45-60 minutes

    How Much Will It Hurt?

    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.

    Postoperative Care

    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.

    Call Your Doctor

    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.


    National Kidney Foundation http://www.kidney.org

    National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov


    Canadian Urological Association http://www.cua.org

    The Kidney Foundation of Canada http://www.kidney.ca


    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.

    Revision Information

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