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Other Treatments for Kidney Stones
Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL)
ESWL is used to remove a stone that:
- Does not pass after a reasonable period of time and causes constant pain
- Is too large to pass on its own
- Blocks the flow of urine
- Causes ongoing urinary tract infection
- Damages kidney tissue or causes constant bleeding
During this procedure, the doctor uses a special machine to direct shock waves at the stone. The waves pass through the soft tissues of the body. They shatter the hard stone on contact and pulverize it into smaller particles that can be passed in the urine more easily. A sedative or anesthesia is used to prevent pain during the procedure. ESWL takes anywhere from 45-60 minutes to complete. You will probably resume normal activities in 1-2 days. You may need to have several of these procedures before your stone is small enough to pass.
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Bleeding disorder or taking medicine to reduce blood clotting
- Skeletal deformities
If you are pregnant, ESWL cannot be done.
Bobrowski AE, Langman CB. Hyperoxaluria and systematic oxalosis: current therapy and future directions. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2006;7(14):1887-1896.
Coe FL, Evan A, Worcester, E. Kidney stone disease. J Clin Invest. 2005;115(10):2598-2608.
Kidney stones in adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/kidney-stones-in-adults/Pages/facts.aspx. Updated January 28, 2013. Accessed April 16, 2013.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis. Updated June 30, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
What are kidney stones? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/kidney-stones. Accessed April 16, 2013.
- Reviewer: Adrienne Carmack, MD
- Review Date: 03/2016
- Update Date: 03/15/2015