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Shock wave lithotripsy


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Lithotripsy comes from the Greek words “ litho” which means stones and “tripsy” means crushing.


What is shock wave lithotripsy?

Shock wave lithotripsy is a treatment for removing stones formed inside the kidneys, ureter or bladder. The technique involves application of sound or pressure waves on the stones in order to break them in to tiny pieces. This way they can pass out safely from the urinary tract.

The technique is also known as Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) as it is performed from outside the body.


How is shockwave lithotripsy performed?

You have to undergo an ultrasound of the kidneys, bladder or the ureter for the purpose of locating the stone. Then a gel will be applied on your body and the shock waves will be directed towards the stone with the lithotripter sensor device.

This device creates the shock waves outside the body and they travel through the skin and body tissues until they hit the stones. The intensity of the shock waves will be increased gradually to create tiny fragments of the stone. Depending on how many kidney stones you have, you may undergo one or more session of lithotripsy to completely get rid of your stones.


Who should not undergo shockwave lithotripsy?

  • People with very big kidney stone (> 1 inch), uric acid or cystine stone
  •  People with kidney disease or kidney malfunction, UTI, bladder problems
  •  Pregnant women
  •  People with bleeding disorders
  •  People with pacemaker or arrhythmia

How to prepare for shock wave lithotripsy?

Always let your doctor know about your medicines, medical history and possibility of pregnancy.

You may be asked not to drink or eat anything at least 6 hours before the test. Do not stop taking your medicines unless advised by your doctor. Blood thinning medicines and NSAIDs may be stopped for 7-10 days.

You will be given a mild sedative or general anaesthesia and a pain killer, depending upon the situation.


What happens during shock wave lithotripsy?

You will either be asked to recline in a water bath or to lie down on a soft cushion while the shock waves are transmitted. Your position depends on the type of machine used. You won’t be experiencing pain under general anaesthesia; however under sedation you can expect some degree of back pain and stinging sensation around kidneys when the shock waves are passed.


What to expect after shock wave lithotripsy?

The procedure lasts for ½ - 1 hour. You will be retained in the recovery room for few hours to get away with the sedation. Your doctor will prescribe pain killers, and antibiotics to eliminate risk of infection. You have to drink lots of fluids post treatment to aid flushing out of the stones. Follow up check-ups will be scheduled.


Post operative risks of shock wave lithotripsy

  • Irritation of bladder due to the fragmented stones
  • Blockage in the ureter
  • Infection and pain
  • Bleeding around kidney


Advantages of Shock wave lithotripsy

The procedure has certain advantages which is why is it the most commonly opted treatment option for stones. They are:

  •  Almost non-invasive
  •  Safe and effective
  •  Post operative complications are rare

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: June 16, 2014


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