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Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

The Queen’s Medical Center Kidney Stone Center offers Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL), a non-invasive procedure using high-energy sound shockwaves to break up kidney stones. This procedure is done using a lithotripsy machine, which focuses the acoustic shockwaves precisely on the stone. The resulting smaller stone pieces are then able to pass out through the urine.

The ESWL procedure is recommended when stones in the kidney are painful, cause kidney damage, or block the flow of urine to the bladder. Not all stones are treated with ESWL. Most kidney stones pass out of the body without treatment. Depending on how large the stones are, the location of the kidney stones in the urinary system and what the stones are made of will determine if this procedure is necessary for you.

An appointment may be made to determine if this procedure is necessary and if so, to ensure the stone is visible during the procedure. This is called a dry run. You will not need to be admitted for this visualization process. Please call the Kidney Stone Center for more information.

What should I expect from the ESWL procedure?

  1. When you arrive at the Kidney Stone Center, a nurse will check your vital signs and review your health history.
  2. Medication will be given intravenously to help you relax and minimize discomfort.
  3. Your physician and staff will locate your kidney stones via x-ray imaging. Once located, your procedure can begin.

This therapy is designed to break stones to a size that can pass through the urine. You will hear a clicking noise each time the shockwave is delivered with the lithotripsy machine.

The procedure will take about 30 minutes. After completion, you will be taken to the recovery room where your vital signs will continue to be monitored while you rest until you are cleared to be discharged home.

Precautions

  • ESWL should not be performed if you are pregnant.
  • Inform your doctor if you are currently taking blood thinners. ESWL is usually not performed if you are taking this type of medication.
  • Inform your doctor if you have a pacemaker or an implanted defibrillator, as the shockwaves may interfere with the function of these devices.