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Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

ESWL is used to remove a stone that:

  • Does not pass after a reasonable period of time and causes constant pain
  • Is too large to pass on its own
  • Blocks the flow of urine
  • Causes ongoing urinary tract infection
  • Damages kidney tissue or causes constant bleeding

During this procedure, the doctor uses a special machine to direct shock waves at the stone. The waves pass through the soft tissues of the body. They shatter the hard stone on contact and pulverize it into smaller particles that can be passed in the urine more easily. A sedative or anesthesia is used to prevent pain during the procedure. ESWL takes anywhere from 45-60 minutes to complete. You will probably resume normal activities in 1-2 days. You may need to have several of these procedures before your stone is small enough to pass.

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Bleeding disorder or taking medicine to reduce blood clotting
  • Obesity
  • Skeletal deformities

If you are pregnant, ESWL cannot be done.

References:

Coe FL, Evan A, Worcester, E. Kidney stone disease. J Clin Invest . 2005;115:2598-2608.

Hyperoxaluria and systematic oxalosis: current therapy and future directions. Expert Opin Pharmacother . 2006;7:1887-1896.

Kidney stones in adults. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/stonesadults/ . Updated January 28, 2013. Accessed April 16, 2013.

Kidney stones and ureteral stones. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=148 . Accessed April 16, 2013.

Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated March 22, 2013. Accessed April 16, 2013.



Last reviewed June 2013 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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