ESWL is short for extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, which is the most common treatment for kidney stones in the U.S. It’s a nonsurgical technique for treating stones in the kidney or ureter (the tube between the kidney and the bladder) using high-energy shock waves. ESWL sends sound waves through your body, which in turn break kidney stones into smaller fragments. ESWL uses these shock waves to crush kidney stones into dust that can more easily move down the urinary tract and pass harmlessly from the body.
The procedure is fairly simple and quite comfortable. You lie on a water-filled cushion while we use X-rays or ultrasound tests to determine the precise location of the kidney stone or gallstone. We then pass ESWL’s high-energy sound waves through your body without injuring surrounding tissues. The procedure works better with some stones than others.
Stones smaller than 2 cm in diameter are the best size for ESWL. The treatment is less effective for very large stones. And ESWL is more appropriate for some people than others. Pregnant women and people with bleeding disorders, infections, severe skeletal abnormalities or morbid obesity are not usually good candidates for ESWL. lf you have other kidney abnormalities or a cardiac pacemaker, we may decide you should have a different treatment.