Discusses extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), a procedure that uses shock waves to break a kidney stone into smaller pieces. Covers how it is done and what to expect after treatment. Covers risks.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) for Kidney Stones
You lie on a water-filled cushion, and the surgeon uses X-rays or ultrasound tests to precisely locate the stone. High-energy sound waves pass through your body without injuring it and break the stone into small pieces. These small pieces move through the urinary tract and out of the body more easily than a large stone.
Your surgeon may use a stent if you have a large stone. A stent is a small, short tube of flexible plastic mesh that holds the ureter open. This helps the small stone pieces to pass without blocking the ureter.
What To Expect After Treatment
ESWL is usually an outpatient procedure. You go home after the treatment and do not have to spend a night in the hospital.
After ESWL, stone fragments usually pass in the urine for a few days and cause mild pain. If you have a larger stone, you may need more ESWL or other treatments.
Why It Is Done
ESWL may be used on a person who has a kidney stone that is causing pain or blocking the urine flow. Stones that are between 4 mm (0.16 in.) and 2 cm (0.8 in.) in diameter are most likely to be treated with ESWL.
ESWL may work best for kidney stones in the kidney or in the part of the ureter close to the kidney. Your surgeon may try to push the stone back into the kidney with a small instrument (ureteroscope) and then use ESWL.
ESWL is usually not used if you:
Are pregnant. The sound waves and X-rays may be harmful to the fetus.
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.