If you have a kidney stone, you're probably all too familiar with the excruciating pain it can cause. Fortunately, a treatment called lithotripsy can help. Also known as ESWL (extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy), this noninvasive procedure helps your body ride itself of the kidney stone with a minimum of pain.

What is lithotripsy?

Lithotripsy is a method of crushing a kidney stone while it's still inside your body. It's a noninvasive procedure that doesn't require incisions. During lithotripsy, carefully directed shock waves pass harmlessly through your body and hit the stone, causing it to crumble into sand-like particles. These particles can then pass easily out of your urinary tract.

Possible Complications
Complications of lithotripsy are rare, but include the following:
  • Infection
  • Bleeding of the kidneys
  • Bruising of the kidneys or skin
  • Obstruction of the ureter (the passageway from the kidney to the bladder)
  • Failure of the stone to fragment
How It's Done
The lithotripsy procedure, which takes about an hour, is done in a hospital, lithotripsy center, or mobile lithotripsy van. It usually doesn't require an overnight hospital stay. Your doctor or a nurse can instruct you on how to prepare for the procedure and explain what to expect afterward.

Your Experience

A stent (flexible tube with holes) may be placed in your ureter before the procedure to help keep urine following from the kidneys. You may receive an intravenous (IV) line to give your fluids and medications. These medications may help relax your or make you sleep. You lie comfortably on a fluid -filled cushion or in a warm-water bath. An x-ray or ultrasound find the exactly location of your kidney stone. Then shock waves are aimed at the stone and sent at high speed. If you're awake, you may feel a tapping sensation as the shock waves pass harmlessly through your body. If large stone particles remain after treatment, a second procedure may be necessary at a later time.

After the Procedure

After the procedure, you'll be monitored in a recovery room for about one to three hours. You maybe prescribed antibiotics to help prevent infection and pain medication if you need it. In a week or two, your doctor may remove your stent, if you have one, and check whether any stone particles remain.

Passing the Stone
It may take anywhere form a day to several weeks for the stone particles to leave your body. During this time, drink plenty of liquids. It's normal for your urine to be cloudy or slightly blood for a few weeks. You may even see small pieces of stone in your urine. A slight fever and some pain are also normal. Your doctor may ask you to strain your urine to collect some stone particles for chemical analysis.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any of the following:
  • Fever over 100.4 degrees F
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Pain not relieved by pain medications
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty urinating
What are kidney stones?
The kidney's job is to filter chemicals that the body can't use out of the blood. When your two kidneys are healthy, waste chemicals dissolve in the urine and are carried out of your body. But under certain circumstances, chemicals in the urine may form crystals. These crystals build up in the kidney and stick together to form a stone. Kidney stones may block the flow of urine through the urinary track, causing sever pain.

Prevent Future Stones

After your kidney stone has been treated, takes these steps to prevent future stones:
Drink lots of water, about 8 to 12 eight-ounce glasses every day.
Follow the diet your doctor recommends.
Take your prescribed medications.
See your doctor regularly for checkups.

Notice: Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.