Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

Since its introduction in the early 1980s, Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL) has become the main therapeutic option for the majority of renal and ureteric stones. This non-invasive treatment administers a series of shock waves, which are targeted at the stone using an ultrasound scan or X-rays for guidance. The shock waves move through soft tissues with little impact, but exert enormous energy when they are focused on stones. This energy fragments the stone into small pieces, which are then passed out of the body in urine. The treatment is usually performed with simple analgesia (pain relief) in an outpatient setting.

After-effects of ESWL

After-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary affects you may develop after having a procedure. After-effects of ESWL include:

  • Pain and discomfort. Your consultant may prescribe pain relief depending on how well your kidneys are functioning after the treatment.
  • A small amount of blood and fragments of stone in your urine. The fragments can cause renal colic, which may require further treatment.
  • Bruising and broken blood vessels under the skin where your treatment was given.

Potential complications of ESWL

There are a number of well-recognised complications associated with ESWL, these include:

  • Renal colic: Severe pain caused by a stone blocking the flow of urine.
  • Steinstrasse: A blockage in your ureter caused by pieces of broken stone.
  • Infection: You may need antibiotics to treat this.
  • Perinephric haematoma (heavy bleeding): Lots of blood in your urine or blood clots .

This leaflet from the BAUS (British Association of Urological Surgeons) contains more information about having ESWL.

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