Lithotripsy for Kidney Stones

Lithotripsy for Kidney Stones

When a kidney stone is too large or painful to pass on its own, your doctor may recommend treatment with lithotripsy. As one of only a few health systems in the Bay Area with a dedicated, on-site lithotripter machine, we can treat our patients sooner, often within 24-48 hours. For more information about our kidney stone services, please call (925) 947-3322.   

About Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract. When urine becomes very concentrated, small hard crystals can begin to form inside the kidney.  If the stones break free of the kidney, they can travel through, and get lodged in, other narrower passages of the urinary tract, such as the bladder, ureters and urethra. 

Symptoms often include severe pain on the sides of your lower back, as well as painful and/or frequent urination that may be discolored, cloudy and/or foul smelling.  Nausea, vomiting, fever and chills may also be present. 

Kidney stones are most commonly found in Caucasian males, particularly those who are overweight.  Other risk factors include eating a diet high in animal protein, not drinking enough liquids (especially water), as well as having prior kidney infections and/or a family history of kidney stones. 

About Lithotripsy for Kidney Stones

Using high-energy sound waves known as “shock waves”, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) sends high-energy sound waves through your body, targeted directly at the kidney stones. The shock waves pass painlessly through your body’s soft tissues to break the stones into small, sand-like particles that can more easily travel through your urinary tract and get passed in your urine.

What To Expect During Treatment

In most cases, lithotripsy treatment lasts about an hour and is done on an outpatient basis, meaning that you go home just a few hours after the treatment.  For maximum comfort, you’ll be given general anesthesia and will lie on a water-filled cushion for the duration of the treatment. 

Using X-rays to precisely locate your stone, your urologist will then use our sophisticated lithotripter machine to direct high-energy sound waves through your body to break up the stone into small pieces. These small pieces can then be easily passed through your urinary tract and out of your body. Some patients may need a short tube of flexible plastic called a stent to hold the ureter open, so that the small stone pieces may more easily pass without blocking the ureter.

After Your Treatment 

You will likely be able to resume normal activities within 1-2 days. You may have some discomfort for several days after treatment, often described as a dull ache in the kidney area. Some patients experience minor bruising and/or some blood in their urine for 24-48 hours after treatment. If a stone is not completely shattered, these tiny fragments may also cause some discomfort as they pass. Be sure to drink plenty of water in the weeks following your treatment. 

For more information on our kidney stone services, please call (925) 947-3322.