Lithotripsy is a medical procedure used to treat certain types of kidney stones and stones in other organs, such as your gallbladder or liver.
Kidney stones occur when minerals and other substances in your urine crystallize in your kidneys, forming solid masses, or stones. These may consist of small, sharp-edged crystals or smoother, heavier formations that resemble polished river rocks. They usually exit your body naturally during urination.
However, sometimes your body can’t pass larger formations through urination. This can lead to kidney damage. People with kidney stones may experience bleeding, severe pain, or urinary tract infections. When stones begin to cause these types of problems, your doctor may suggest lithotripsy.
How does lithotripsy work?
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL):
ESWL uses shock waves to break down stones. During this procedure, a surgeon will use a machine called a lithotripter to aim sound waves directly at the stones through the body.
The procedure takes about 1 hour and usually takes place in a hospital. In most cases, a person can go home the same day.
After the treatment, a person should pass the stone particles over several days or weeks through urination.
This procedure involves using an endoscope to treat stones in the ureter. An endoscope is a flexible tube with a light and camera that helps a doctor see inside an organ or body cavity.
The doctor can see the stones using the endoscope and uses a laser to break them down. The procedure takes about 30 minutes, and most people can go home the same day.
The broken stone fragments should pass easily through urine in the days and weeks following the procedure.