Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

This is a frequently used procedure for the treatment of stones in the kidneys. In ESWL, shock waves that are created outside of the body travel through the skin and body tissues until they hit the dense stones. The stones break down into sand like particles and are easily passed through the urinary tract in the urine.

There are several types of ESWL devices. The one used at North Eastern Urology is a very modern device. It does not require the old-fashioned water bath. We usually ask for a light general anaesthetic and you are usually able to go home same day.

Either x-rays or ultrasound can be used to pinpoint the stone during treatment. Recovery time is short, and most people can resume normal activities in a few days.

Complication may occur with ESWL. Most patients have blood in their urine for a few days after treatment. Bruising and minor discomfort of the back or abdomen from the shock waves are also common.

To reduce the risks of complications, we usually ask patients to avoid taking aspirin and other drugs that affect blood clotting for a week before treatment. Another complication may occur if the shattered stone particles cause pain as they pass through the urinary tract. In some cases, we need to insert a small tube, called a stent, through the bladder into the ureter to help the fragments pass (refer to stent information). More than one treatment is sometimes required as the stone may not be completely shattered with one treatment.

You are advised to call and speak to the Practice Nurse if you experience any of the following symptoms after discharge from hospital:

  • Fever
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Inability to pass urine
  • Offensive/cloudy urine