Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

Lithotripsy 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 you either sit in a water bath or lie on a cushion. The doctor uses a special machine to direct shock waves at the stone. The waves pass through the soft tissues of the body, but shatter the hard stone on contact, pulverizing it into smaller particles that can more easily be passed in the urine. A sedative or anesthesia is used to prevent pain during the procedure. ESWL takes anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours to complete, and you'll probably resume normal activities in one or two days. You may need to undergo several of these procedures before your stone is fragmented into small enough pieces to pass.

ESWL should not be done in patients with the following conditions:

Special Considerations

Not all stones can be treated with ESWL. Your doctor will take into account the location, number, size, and composition of your kidney stone(s) in determining the best treatment.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you experience:

  • Excessive need to urinate or the inability to urinate
  • Excessive blood in the urine
  • Pain
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Any unusual symptoms

Other Treatments for Calcium Oxalate Kidney Stones

  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • Probiotic supplementation with Oxalobacter formigenes
  • Calcium supplementation (250-1000 mg four times a day)
  • Cholestyramine