Health and Medicine

Surgery and Other Treatments

What is lithotripsy?

Lithotripsy is the use of ultrasonic or shock waves to pulverize kidney stones (calculi), allowing the small particles to be excreted or removed from the body. There are two different methods: extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) and percutaneous lithotripsy. The ESWL method, used on smaller stones, breaks up the stones with external shock waves from a machine called a lithotripter. This technique has eliminated the need for more invasive stone surgery in many cases. For larger stones, a type of endoscope, called a nephroscope, is inserted into the kidney through a small incision. The ultrasonic waves from the nephroscope shatter the stones, and the fragments are removed through the nephroscope.


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