Kidney Stone Treatment: Lithotripsy
Saint Clares offers a non-invasive alternative for the treatment of kidney
stones and ureteral stones. This treatment option, Extracorporeal Shock
Wave Lithotripsy (also known as ESWL or simply lithotripsy), targets the
stone with shock waves in order to crumble it. Lithotripsy, from the Greek
word for “stone crushing”, is an outpatient procedure that
lasts for approximately 45 minutes and is performed under sedation or
light general anesthesia.
Benefits for patients include:
- A faster recovery time
- Less pain than surgical patients with incisions
- A more cost efficient choice than open surgery
Saint Clare’s has offered lithotripsy for over a decade as an alternative
to conventional surgery. We treat and provide relief to hundreds of patients
with urinary stones on an annual basis. This service is offered once a
week at Saint Clare’s Hospital/Dover General through a mobile lithotripsy
unit. Check with your physician if lithotripsy may be an alternative for you.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are hardened crystal clusters that can develop in the urinary
system and usually affect people between the ages of 20 and 40. Approximately
12% of Americans will have a kidney stone at some point in their life.
Their size may vary from a grain of sand to nearly an inch across, often
building up slowly. When stones grow too large to pass out of the body
naturally, they block urine flow and may cause sudden and severe pain.
Other symptoms include bloody or burning urination, infection and nausea.
Many patients find that their stomach and kidney areas are tender to the
touch. Only removal of the stone will relieve their pain.
How do kidney stones form?
Stones usually form because there is a breakdown in the balance of liquids
and solids in the urine. The kidneys must keep the right amount of water
in the body so they remove minerals and other materials that the body
cannot use. If this balance is disturbed, kidneys can become overloaded
with substances (usually small crystals) that won’t dissolve in
water. Crystals begin to stick together and slowly add layer upon layer
to form a stone. A kidney stone may grow for months or even years before
being noticed by the patient by causing pain. Experts suggest that age,
diet, dehydration, climate, infections and inherited disorders are some
possible causes of kidney stones.
What kinds of treatments are there for kidney stones?
Depending on the size, location and composition of the kidney stones,
there are a variety of treatment options which your urologist can discuss
with you. Some kidney stones may pass on their own, and other options
may include medicine, ureteral stents, ureterosocopy, lithotripsy or open surgery.
What can I expect during lithotripsy treatment?
After an x-ray to determine the location of your kidney stone and anesthesia
or sedation for your comfort during the procedure, you will be positioned
under the lithotripter. Shock waves will be directed at the kidney stone
to break it into small, sand-like particles. After the treatment, you
will be taken to recovery for observation prior to discharge. Remember
that you will need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home,
since it is not advisable for patients to drive themselves home after
What can I expect when I go home after lithotripsy treatment?
When you are discharged, you will receive instructions which should be
followed carefully. You may experience discomfort as the particles pass
– if needed, pain medication may be prescribed by your urologist.
Increasing fluids may assist in passing the stone fragments more quickly.
You should call your urologist if you have any questions or concerns.