Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a procedure to break up stones inside the urinary tract, bile ducts or pancreatic duct with a series of shock waves generated by a machine called a lithotripter.
The shock waves enter the body and are targeted using an X-ray. The goal of the procedure is to break the stones into smaller pieces that can pass through the body or become easier to extract.
Who may need extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy?
ESWL works differently in various people, and is not always the best choice for someone who has a stone. The following are some of the factors that can affect the procedure’s success.
- Stone composition: Stones composed of cystine and certain types of calcium do not break up well with shock waves.
- Stone location: Stones in very narrow ducts may have trouble passing through or being extracted even after they are broken up.
- Stone size: Large stones may create big fragments that can be difficult to pass or extract.
- Preexisting conditions: Certain conditions, such as chronic infection, may make ESWL less effective.
Some ESWL techniques can make lithotripsy safer and more effective, such as adjusting the power and intervals of the shock waves.