Lithotripsy for Kidney Stones
Shock wave therapy (lithotripsy)
This page tells you about the procedure known as Lithotripsy and serves to explain what is involved and the possible outcomes and complications. It is not meant to replace discussion between you and your consultant but can act as a starting point for such a discussion.
Lithotripsy is likely to be a pre-planned procedure and you should have plenty of time to discuss it with your consultant before you decide to sign the consent form.
What is Lithotripsy?
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is a procedure in which kidney and ureteral (tube draining urine from the kidney to the bladder) stones are broken into smaller fragments by shock waves. These small fragments can then pass out of the body naturally. This approach may leave you stone-free without surgical intervention or invasive procedures.
During lithotripsy, the stones are fragmented by high energy shock waves created outside the body. The machine used to deliver the shock waves is called a Lithotriptor.
Which stones are suitable for Lithotripsy?
- Stones in the kidney
- Stones in the ureter (tube draining urineFrom the kidney to the bladder)
Are there any contraindications for this treatment?
There are certain factors that would prohibit lithotripsy treatment such as:
- If you weigh over 120 kg
- If you have had blood-clotting problems
- If you are pregnant
There may be other factors that your doctor will take into consideration before performing the procedure.
What are the alternative treatments for kidney stones?
The majority of small stones within the kidney are fragmented by lithotripsy. However, a proportion of smaller stones and most larger stones need other treatment methods using telescopes passed through the bladder or through a keyhole operation. Decisions regarding the best treatment option will be taken based on the size and position of your stone and the structure of your kidney.
What preparation do you need before attending lithotripsy?
- If you are taking a substance used to prevent blood clotting such as Aspirin, Warfarin or Clopidrogel, please discuss this with your Urologist prior to your appointment.
- If you have a pacemaker please let your Urologist know.
- Continue other routine medications.
- Do not eat anything 4 hours prior to the procedure (you can drink freely). If you are diabetic, please take your normal diet as suggested.
- Someone else must drive you home after the procedure or accompany you on public transport. You should be able to drive again the next day if you feel well enough.
How is the procedure (ESWL) performed?
The procedure is done as an outpatient and it takes about an hour. Tests will be performed beforehand, such as;
- An x-ray to determine the size and location of the stone
- Routine urine test
- Blood pressure
- An electrocardiogram (ECG), if there are any risk factors
After signing a consent form, you will be positioned on the Lithotripsy table and monitoring equipment will be connected. A needle may be inserted in a vein in your arm to administer painkillers. The position of the stone will be located using an x-ray or ultrasound scan. After confirming the position of the stone, painkillers will be given and treatment started.
You must lie still during your treatment. You will be able to request more medication if you experience any pain. After the treatment has finished, you will rest in the recovery area. You will be discharge home when you are comfortable and your observations are stable. Please allow approximately 2 hours for your visit.
Will there be any pain afterwards?
Some minor abdominal discomfort is common after this procedure. You will be prescribed some painkillers after treatment.
What are the complications?
It is likely that you will pass a small amount of blood in your urine for a few days after treatment. You may also experience some bruising on your back and an excessive need to urinate.
You will be warned to watch for symptoms of infections such as fever and excessive pain. It is important to drink plenty of water afterwards to help flush out the stone fragments following treatment.
If you get symptoms of infection or if the pain is severe and persistent, please get in touch with either your GP or attend the accident and emergency department in your local hospital.
How long do you need to stay off work?
The length of time between your return to work following this type of operation will depend on the type of work you do. Ask your consultant for advice with regards to returning to work and completing household activities.
Due to the sedative medications given driving should be avoided for 24 hours after the procedure.
Following Lithotripsy, stone fragments may pass in your urine and may result in pain.
When do you come back for follow up treatment?
Fragmented kidney stones may take a few weeks to pass in the urine. You will be asked to return for follow up in the clinic. For larger stones, you may need this treatment more than once. On follow up visits, fragmentation and clearance of the stone will be checked by x-rays and further action may be planned based on the results.
It is important that you make a list of all medicines you are taking and bring it with you to all your follow-up clinic appointments. If you have any questions at all, please ask your surgeon, or nurse.
It may help to write down questions as you think of them so that you have them ready. It may also help to bring someone with you when attending your outpatient appointments.
Authors – Consultant Urologist Panel West Midland Stone Network
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