Shockwave Lithotripsy

Shockwave Lithotripsy Santa Barbara Urologist Dr. Laub

The most common treatment for kidney stones in the U.S. is shock wave lithotripsy, also called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. This approach targets the kidney or ureter with high-energy sound waves from outside the body, to break up crystallized minerals into tiny fragments called “stone dust” that can then pass via the urine. Dr. Laub performs this as an outpatient procedure.

Sometimes a stent (a short, flexible tube) may be placed in the ureter after this procedure, to keep it open and aid the stone fragments to pass through.

For several days following this treatment, you will likely be aware of tiny stones passing in your urine, which may cause mild pain. Larger stones may require an additional lithotripsy treatment or Holmium laser ureteroscopy.

Shockwave Lithotripsy effectiveness and cautions

Shockwave lithotripsy is most effective on stones that are smaller than 2 cm in diameter, with the highest success rates in patients with stones less than 1 cm. As many as 50-75% of the best candidates for shockwave lithotripsy are generally free of stones within three months of treatment.

Shockwave lithotripsy should not be used for stones measuring larger than 2 cm. Large stones are sometimes broken up by PCNL (click here for more information).

 Other factors to be considered include the stones' shape and location, your overall and kidney health, and the following specific conditions, which exclude this treatment:

  • Pregnancy
  • Abnormal kidneys
  • Kidney infection or cancer
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Bleeding disorder
  • Skeletal abnormalities
  • Morbid obesity

If you wear a cardiac pacemaker, Dr. Laub will consult with your cardiologist before recommending this procedure.

Complications of Shockwave Lithotripsy

After the treatment, besides pain, some patients may also experience:

  • Blocked urine flow (requiring removal of fragments using a ureteroscope)
  • Onset of a urinary tract infection
  • Minor bleeding around the kidney

Contact Dr. Laub’s office immediately with kidney stone symptoms for a prompt diagnosis and to discuss your options.