If stones do not pass, they can damage the kidneys and urinary tract. When medications do not help, a lithotripsy procedure can break the stones down into smaller pieces so that they can come out in the urine.
The two main types of lithotripsy are extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) and laser lithotripsy. Laser lithotripsy is sometimes known as flexible ureteroscopy and laser lithotripsy (FURSL) because doctors use a tool called a ureteroscope.
Both procedures can help eliminate bothersome stones quickly and effectively. The type of treatment a doctor recommends will depend on a range of factors, such as the type of stones the person has and their overall health.
The sound waves break down the stones into small pieces. They are designed to affect the stone, but they can also harm other tissues in the body if the doctor does not carefully administer and monitor them.
The procedure takes about 1 hour and usually happens in a hospital. In most cases, a person can go home the same day. After the treatment, they should pass the stone particles over several days or weeks through urination.
A person should let the doctor know if they are taking any medications in advance. Before the procedure, they may need to stop taking certain medications, including blood thinners and over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen. This is because these can interfere with the ability of the blood to clot.
Lithotripsy usually takes place under general anesthetics, which means that the person will be asleep and will not feel any pain. Typically, people will need to fast for 812 hours before receiving anesthetics.
After the person has woken up from the anesthetics, the doctor will monitor them for at least 1 hour to confirm that they are comfortable and stable enough to go home. The doctor will provide care instructions and pain medications before discharging them.
It is also common to experience pain in the back and flank, but pain medications can reduce the severity of this pain. Some people may also experience mild bruising on the skin where the shock waves entered the body.
Lithotripsy uses shock waves or a laser to break down stones in the kidney, gallbladder, or ureters. There are two main types of lithotripsy ESWL and FURSL and the procedure usually lasts between 30 minutes and 2 hours.