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Kidney Stone Treatment: Lithotripsy


Saint Clares offers a non-invasive alternative for the treatment of kidney stones and ureteral stones. This treatment option, Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (also known as ESWL or simply lithotripsy), targets the stone with shock waves in order to crumble it. Lithotripsy, from the Greek word for “stone crushing”, is an outpatient procedure that lasts for approximately 45 minutes and is performed under sedation or light general anesthesia.

Benefits for patients include:

  • A faster recovery time
  • Less pain than surgical patients with incisions
  • A more cost efficient choice than open surgery

Saint Clare’s has offered lithotripsy for over a decade as an alternative to conventional surgery. We treat and provide relief to hundreds of patients with urinary stones on an annual basis. This service is offered once a week at Saint Clare’s Hospital/Dover General through a mobile lithotripsy unit. Check with your physician if lithotripsy may be an alternative for you.

What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are hardened crystal clusters that can develop in the urinary system and usually affect people between the ages of 20 and 40. Approximately 12% of Americans will have a kidney stone at some point in their life.

Their size may vary from a grain of sand to nearly an inch across, often building up slowly.  When stones grow too large to pass out of the body naturally, they block urine flow and may cause sudden and severe pain. Other symptoms include bloody or burning urination, infection and nausea. Many patients find that their stomach and kidney areas are tender to the touch. Only removal of the stone will relieve their pain.

How do kidney stones form?
Stones usually form because there is a breakdown in the balance of liquids and solids in the urine.  The kidneys must keep the right amount of water in the body so they remove minerals and other materials that the body cannot use.  If this balance is disturbed, kidneys can become overloaded with substances (usually small crystals) that won’t dissolve in water.  Crystals begin to stick together and slowly add layer upon layer to form a stone.  A kidney stone may grow for months or even years before being noticed by the patient by causing pain. Experts suggest that age, diet, dehydration, climate, infections and inherited disorders are some possible causes of kidney stones.

What kinds of treatments are there for kidney stones?
Depending on the size, location and composition of the kidney stones, there are a variety of treatment options which your urologist can discuss with you.  Some kidney stones may pass on their own, and other options may include medicine, ureteral stents, ureterosocopy, lithotripsy or open surgery.

What can I expect during lithotripsy treatment?
After an x-ray to determine the location of your kidney stone and anesthesia or sedation for your comfort during the procedure, you will be positioned under the lithotripter.  Shock waves will be directed at the kidney stone to break it into small, sand-like particles.  After the treatment, you will be taken to recovery for observation prior to discharge.  Remember that you will need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home, since it is not advisable for patients to drive themselves home after the treatment.

What can I expect when I go home after lithotripsy treatment?
When you are discharged, you will receive instructions which should be followed carefully. You may experience discomfort as the particles pass – if needed, pain medication may be prescribed by your urologist.  Increasing fluids may assist in passing the stone fragments more quickly.  You should call your urologist if you have any questions or concerns.

For questions or more information, please fill out our Online Inquiry Form.

 
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