ESWL - Lithotripsy (Shock Wave Therapy for Kidney and Urethral Stones)

Lithotripsy is a medical procedure that uses shock waves to break up stones in the kidney, bladder, or ureter (tube that carries urine from your kidneys to your bladder). After the procedure, the tiny pieces of stones pass out of your body in your urine.

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is the most common type of lithotripsy. "Extracorporeal" means outside the body.

You will wear a medical gown and lie on an exam table on top of a soft, water-filled cushion. You will be given a mild sedative or pain medicine before the procedure starts. You will be given antibiotics to prevent infection.

High-energy shock waves, also called sound waves, will pass through your body until they hit the kidney stones. You may feel a tapping sensation when this starts. The waves break the stones into tiny pieces.

The lithotripsy procedure generally takes 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Lithotripsy is generally safe. Ask your doctor about these possible complications.

  • Pieces of stone are left in your body. You may need more treatments.
  • Bleeding around your kidney may require a blood transfusion.
  • Your kidneys may not work as well, or they may stop working, after the procedure.
  • You may get ulcers in your stomach or small intestine.
  • Pieces of the stone may block urine flow from your kidney. This may cause severe pain or damage to your kidney.
  • Kidney infection may occur.

Before the Procedure

Always tell your doctor or nurse:

If you are or could be pregnant
What drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription

During the days before the surgery:

You may be asked to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), warfarin (Coumadin), and any other drugs that make it hard for your blood to clot. Ask your doctor when to stop taking them.

Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of the surgery.

On the day of your procedure:

You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything for several hours before the procedure.
Take the drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

After the Procedure

After the procedure, you will stay in the recovery room for up to about 2 hours. Most people are able to go home the day of their procedure.

 

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Preoperative Patient Instructions

Lithotripsy