What happens during shockwave lithotripsy?

  • The patient is given intravenous sedation (to cause drowsiness) or general anesthetic before the procedure begins.
  • A water-filled cushion or membrane is placed underneath the area to be treated.
  • The doctor and technician locate the exact position of the kidney stone(s) using ultrasound waves or X-rays.
  • A shockwave-generating machine emits high-energy waves that can crush the stones. Usually, about 2,000 to 3,000 waves are required to break the stones into fragments. It takes 1 hour to complete the procedure.

SWL generally is performed as an outpatient procedure. The patient usually spends a few hours in the recovery room before going home.

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