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Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy  

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a common treatment option for kidney stones, which can cause a variety of urological issues.  Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is a non-surgical procedure that is one of the most common methods of treatment for kidney stones in the U.S. It is designed to break kidney stones into fragments so they can be naturally passed from the body through the urinary tract. It works best on smaller kidney stones that are located inside the kidney or in the upper part of the ureter, which passes urine from the kidneys to the bladder.  

What Are the Benefits of Shock Wave Lithotripsy? 

The main advantage of shock wave lithotripsy is that patients can be treated for kidney stones without having to undergo surgery. This reduces the chances of complications, costs and recovery time. 

However, not all individuals are candidates for shock wave lithotripsy, as this procedure is not recommended for: 

  • Extremely large or hard kidney stones 
  • Pregnant women 
  • Infected kidney stones 
  • Patients who are obese or suffering from a condition that causes increased risk of bleeding 

Shock Wave Lithotripsy Details 

Shock wave lithotripsy is performed by a urologist and patients are given anesthesia, though they may remain awake. The patient lies on a table, on top of a water-filled cushion. Powerful energy waves are directed through the water and into the body, targeting the location of the kidney stone. Thousands of shock waves break the stone into tiny pieces that can pass through the urinary tract more easily.  

What to Expect With Shock Wave Lithotripsy 

Patients are able to go home as soon as the effects of the anesthesia wear off, and they can expect to pass stone fragments in their urine for several days or weeks after the procedure. Over-the-counter pain medication may be needed to help manage the discomfort involved in passing stone fragments.  

How Effective Is Shock Wave Lithotripsy? 

Up to 90% of patients who have undergone shock wave lithotripsy remain stone-free three months after treatment. In some cases, however, stones may not break into small enough pieces, and another treatment may be needed.  

Tampa General Hospital treats a full range of urological conditions, including kidney stones, and offers shock wave lithotripsy.