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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) for Kidney Stones
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.
See a picture of
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.
ESWL may be used on people with 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
For 9 out of 10 patients who have kidney
stones smaller than
10 mm (0.4 in.)—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.1
Complications of ESWL include:
ESWL does not replace the need for the
preventive treatment of kidney stones, such as drinking enough fluids so that
you don't get
ESWL does not successfully treat
cystine kidney stones. These stones do not break up easily.
is a safe procedure and may be used on children and on individuals with only
one working kidney. ESWL should not be used if you have a pacemaker unless a
cardiologist has determined it is safe.
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Spector DA (2007). Urinary stones. In NH Fiebach et
al., eds., Principles of Ambulatory Medicine, 7th ed.,
pp. 754–766. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
April 28, 2011
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Tushar J. Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
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