Treating Kidney Stones Using ESWL

First introduced in 1980, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is now a standard treatment option for dealing with kidney and urinary stones. Shock wave lithotripsy is a gentle way of removing urinary stones as it does not require surgery. Most stones can be treated successfully using this method. It involves sending shock waves into the body from the outside. These waves travel through the tissue and meet at a focal point on the stone, causing it to shatter. If this treatment is successful, the fragments of stone then exit the body naturally with the urine.

The shock waves work through the skin, so there is no need for any invasive intervention such as surgery. ESWL treatment is usually not very painful. However, if patients do feel any pain, the doctor treating them can inject a painkiller directly into a vein to ensure that it takes effect quickly. Shock wave lithotripsy takes approximately 30 to 60 minutes and can usually be performed as an outpatient procedure. Using state-of-the-art equipment, all stone deposits along the urinary tract can be treated while the patient is lying comfortably on their back. With the help of ultrasound and X-ray imaging, the shock wave generator is positioned so that the shock waves are concentrated on the stone. X-rays and/or ultrasounds are also used to check the success of the treatment during and after the procedure. [11]

Depending on the size and position of the stones, high success rates can be achieved with just one round of treatment, which often can be done out patient. Scientific studies indicate that stones are completely cleared in up to 90% of well-selected patients who undergo ESWL and in more than 70% of cases only one treatment session is required. [12, 13]

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