Shock wave lithotripsy is used to break up various types of stones in kidneys. It is also used in other areas such as urinary tracts, pancreatic ducts, and bile ducts. A series of shock waves are generated by an instrument known as a lithotripter. It sends shock waves to a targeted area in the body, which causes the stones to break and come out of the body quickly.
Once they are broken up in the kidney or the urinary tubes, tiny fragments of the stones exit through urine. The fragments are removed using an endoscopy tube from other areas like the pancreatic or bile duct.
ESWL: Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy
How is it Performed?
Shock wave lithotripsy is a noninvasive procedure and does not need any incision on the skin. You will be asked to lie on the padded bed. The doctors or healthcare professionals will perform some imaging tests such as X-rays or an ultrasound to locate the exact position of the stones. Once the position is marked, the procedure team will line you up with the lithotripsy machine.
A series of thousands of shock waves will be sent through water by a lithotripsy machine to the exact position on the body. You may hear loud popping sounds from the device. These shock waves are not similar to electricity waves. They do not cause any severe pain but may cause slight discomfort. An anesthetic medicine may be needed before performing the procedure.
These powerful shock waves break the stones into fragments to easily pass out of the body.
Before the procedure, the doctors may ask you to get some tests done to check for kidney functions, infection in the kidney or the bladder, blood cell count, etc. The tests are similar for pancreatic and bile stones to check for their overall function.
If your results are normal, the doctor may ask about all the current medications or treatments. They also will ask for a complete medical history. They may ask you to stop taking some medicines, like warfarin, to prevent the risk of bleeding if you are using it. Before the procedure, you may need to stop drinking or eating anything for a few hours.
After the procedure, it is common to see some amount of blood in the urine and have stomach or flank pain for a few days. In rare cases, depending on the size of the stones, some may experience severe pain. Oral pain relievers will be prescribed to you for pain management. If the pain has not subsided in a few days or is getting severe, consult your doctor. It is essential to drink a lot of fluids during this time as it will help pass out the stone fragments easily.
Shock wave lithotripsy is generally considered a safe procedure. The shock waves from the machine do not cause any harm to the surrounding organs and tissues. They only target the stones with precision. However, a few risk factors that can cause complications are:
- If you are pregnant.
- You have a serious bleeding disorder or using medicines that can cause bleeding.
- Emergency nature of your condition, which requires immediate removal of the stone.
The recovery time for shock wave lithotripsy is minimal. You can walk out of the hospital after treatment. You can resume your daily activities in a couple of days. By that time, the pain will subside. A special diet is not needed for this procedure. Just drink plenty of water for a few weeks to facilitate the passing of the stones.