Doctor's Responses Archive

Question: What is extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy?

Answer: Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a technique for shattering a kidney stone or gallstone with a shock wave produced outside the body.

To focus on kidney stones here, there are several methods available for producing an acoustical or ultrasonic "big bang" which can be focused from outside onto the kidney and the kidney stone. The stone breaks up after 800 to 2000 shocks.

Lithotripsy results are generally good with kidney stones that are less than 1.5 cm (5/8th of an inch) in diameter.

The lithotriptor (the stone crushing machine) used to crush kidney stones is operated by a urologist.

Anesthesia may be necessary to control the pain, depending on the size and density of the stone and the energy of the shock wave needed to break it up.

The urologist may opt to place a catheter (stent) in the ureter (the tube running from the bladder to the outside)from below to facilitate passage of the shattered fragments.

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is also known as ESWL© (Dornier Medical Systems, Inc.).


Last Editorial Review: 2/18/1999 8:16:00 AM