Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy
by Krisha McCoy, MS
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a nonsurgical treatment for kidney stones. It uses high-energy shock waves to break the stones into tiny pieces. The pieces can then be passed with urine.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
Lithotripsy is used to remove kidney stones that:
Most people who have lithotripsy for kidney stones are free of stones within 3 months of treatment. Those with stones in the kidney and upper ureter have the most success with treatment. There may be fragments that are too large to pass after the procedure. They can be treated with lithotripsy again.
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Heavy sedation or general anesthesia is usually used. Heavy sedation will keep you calm. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep through the procedure.
Description of the Procedure TOP
You will be placed on a soft cushion on top of a table. Shock waves can be passed to the stones through this cushion.
X-rays or ultrasound will be used to locate the stone. Your body will be positioned to target the stone. Shock waves will be passed through the stones until they are crushed. They will be crushed into pieces as small as grains of sand.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. There may be some pain and discomfort afterward from the passage of broken stones. There may also be some bruising on the area treated. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medication.
Postoperative Care TOP
You will be able to move almost immediately after the procedure. Drink plenty of water in the weeks after the procedure to help the stone pieces pass.
Call Your Doctor TOP
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
National Kidney Foundation
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Urological Association
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Kidney stones in adults. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated February 2013. Accessed March 7, 2016.
Lithotripsy. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lithotripsy. Accessed March 7, 2016.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated February 24, 2016. Accessed March 7, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 3/3/2014
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.