What is lithotripsy?
Lithotripsy is a noninvasive procedure that treats kidney stones that are too large to pass through the urinary tract. Lithotripsy uses ultrasound shock waves to break kidney stones into smaller pieces that can be eliminated in the urine. Lithotripsy is also used to treat stones of the digestive system, such as gallstones and pancreatic stones.
The most common form of lithotripsy is extracorporeal (outside the body) shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). A machine called a lithotripter generates the ultrasound shock waves that travel through your body until they reach the dense kidney stone. The stone shatters when the ultrasound waves hit it.
Lithotripsy is the most common procedure for treating kidney stones. Other methods include endoscopic procedures and surgery. Discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you.
Types of lithotripsy
There are two types of ESWL methods:
Table ESWL involves lying on a water-filled cushion on top of a procedure table. The ultrasound shock waves travel through the cushion and into your body. This is the most common form of ESWL.
Water bath ESWL involves sitting in a water bath. The ultrasound shock waves travel through the water and into your body.
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