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Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy



Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is the use of high energy shock waves through the skin to break kidney stones into tiny pieces. The pieces can then be passed with urine.

Kidney Stone.

Kidney Stoneshttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=25072507si1993.jpgKidney StonesNULLjpgKidney StonesNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\si1993.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.26NULL2002-10-012553912507_14836Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

Lithotripsy is used to remove kidney stones that:

  • Are too large to pass
  • Cause constant pain
  • Block the flow of urine (pee)
  • Cause an ongoing infection
  • Damage kidney tissue
  • Cause bleeding

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Bruising in the back or abdomen
  • Pain as the stone fragments pass
  • Failure of stone fragments to pass, requiring additional surgery
  • Need for additional treatments
  • Reaction to anesthesia

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Bleeding disorders or taking medicines that reduce blood clotting
  • Chronic health problems, such as obesity
  • Skeletal deformities

What to Expect

Problems to Look Out For

Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • An extreme urge or inability to pass urine
  • Excessive blood in urine
  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting that is severe or that lasts a long time
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • New or worsening symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.





  • Kidney stones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-stones.
  • Lithotripsy. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lithotripsy.
  • Nephrolithiasis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/nephrolithiasis-in-adults-24.


  • Mark S. Itzkowitz, MD, JD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.