Treatment for Kidney Stones

Noninvasive Shockwave Treatment for Kidney Stones

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) is a technique for treating kidney stones and stones in the ureter that avoids the need for surgery. In SWL, high energy shock waves are passed through the body and used to break kidney stones into pieces as small as grains of sand. These small pieces can then pass from the body along with the urine.

During lithotripsy, a special machine called a lithotripter sends shock waves to the stone. The waves pass harmlessly through the skin and muscles of your back and focus on the stone. There are two ways to remove kidney stones using shock wave treatment. In one method, the patient is placed in a tub of lukewarm water and x-rays or ultrasound are used to pinpoint the location of the stones. The body is positioned so that the stones can be targeted. In the second, more common method, the patient lies on top of a soft cushion through which the waves pass. Thousands of shock waves are needed to crush the kidney stones and the procedure usually takes about 45 to 60 minutes. This is the form of therapy provided at MetroLitho’s many facilities. Because this treatment helps avoid surgery, complications, hospital stays, costs and recovery time are reduced. However, not all types of kidney stones can be treated with SWL.

In those patients thought to be good candidates, 70 to 90 percent are found to be free of stones within three months of treatment. The highest success rates seem to be in people with mobile stones that are located in the kidney and upper ureter. Occasionally, some patients may still have stone fragments that are too large to be passed after treatment. If symptoms persist, these can be treated with lithotripsy again.

Laser stone surgery is minimally invasive and requires no incisions. The surgeon uses a small lightweight scope (ureteroscope) to access the ureter and kidney in order to view the stone. A laser fiber is then inserted through the scope to transmit holmium energy and break up the stone. A small basket is used to remove larger pieces of the stone and smaller pieces can be passed in the urine after the surgery.

The urologist may also insert a tube called a stent between the kidney and urethra so that small stone fragments may pass more easily. The stent also allows the kidney to drain during the healing process. The stent is typically removed about one week after the laser treatment.

Laser surgery usually takes about one hour and does not require an overnight stay.