Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy


Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy makes kidney stones easier to pass.

The pain of a kidney stone trying to exit your urinary tract has been likened to that of a woman birthing a baby. While there are pain relievers available for laboring women, there is not much you can do when a kidney stone is attempting to pass.

Instead of enduring this pain, many patients with this condition want to treat the stones with options like extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL).


Understanding Kidney Stones

Your kidney is your body’s greatest filter. When it is functioning correctly, it filters toxins from your blood and passes them out of your body in the form of urine. However, if the urine is too concentrated, it can begin to crystallize and form a stone. This solid chunk of minerals may stay in the kidney, or it may start to move down the urinary tract. If it stays in the kidney, it can continue to grow in size. If it tries to move down your urinary tract, it can become very painful.

Preventing & Treating Kidney Stones

Most urologists believe that adjusting your diet and increasing your water intake can reduce your chance of forming a kidney stone. There may also be a genetic component as to why you are more likely than your peers to get stones.

Once a stone has formed, there are ways to remove them without causing excruciating pain. If the stone is not causing problems, your doctor may decide to not do anything. If it is very large or causing bleeding or pain, then you may choose to get rid of it. While actual surgical removal of the kidney stone is possible, there are other minimally invasive options available today.

What is ESWL?

One treatment for kidney stones is called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, or ESWL. This treatment is completely non-invasive. Strong sound waves are directed at the kidney stone. An ultrasound or other imaging technique may be used to better direct the sound waves. These waves are strong enough to break up the stone. When the stone is in much smaller bits, it can more easily pass through your urinary tract and exit your body.

ESWL is one of the most common treatments for kidney stones. If your stone is very large, or you have multiple stones, you may need to have the treatment done more than once. If the smaller pieces of stone still seem too large to pass easily, the urologist may decide to place a stent to make passing the stone easier and painless.

Using ESWL does not involve any incisions into the body, eliminating the usual surgical risks of bleeding and infection.