Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) uses shock waves to break a kidney stone into small pieces that can more easily travel through the urinary tract and pass from the body.
Why It Is Done ?
ESWL may be used on people with a kidney stone that is causing pain or blocking the urine flow. Stones that are between 4mm and 2cm in diameter are most likely to be treated with ESWL.
ESWL may work best for kidney stones in the kidney, not in the ureter. It may be harder for ESWL to break up a stone that has moved into the ureter, although this is still possible. 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.
- Have a bleeding disorder.
- Have a kidney infection, urinary tract infection, or kidney cancer.
- Have kidneys with abnormal structure or function.
How Well It Works ?
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.
ESWL machines can be low-energy or high-energy. Low-energy machines cause less discomfort, but you may need more treatments before the stone is broken into pieces small enough to pass.
For 9 out of every 10 patients who have kidney stones smaller than 10mm-either in the kidney or in the ureter-ESWL gets rid of all of the stone or leaves only small fragments that don't cause any symptoms.
ESWL does not replace the need for the preventive treatment of kidney stones, such as drinking enough fluids so that you don't get dehydrated.
Complications Of ESWL Include:
- Pain caused by the passage of stone fragments.
- Blocked urine flow as a result of stone fragments becoming stuck in the urinary tract. The fragments may then need to be removed with a ureteroscope.
- Urinary tract infection.
- Bleeding around the outside of the kidney.
How Does Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy Work ?
In extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy, shock waves that are created outside the body travel through the skin and body tissues until they hit the denser kidney stones. After the stones have been hit, they will break down into sand-like particles that are easily passed through the urinary tract in the urine.
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