Kidney stones can be dissolved through a procedure known as lithotripsy, which uses sound or shock waves to break up the stones into pieces small enough to pass through the urinary system, states WebMD. The procedure is done in an outpatient setting, and it takes approximately one hour to complete.
Once a kidney stone is located with the help of an X-ray or ultrasound, the high-intensity sound waves are directed at the stone, explains WebMD. Small kidney stones usually require just one treatment, but larger stones may require more than one lithotripsy treatment or stent placement in order to dissolve and pass the stone. Sound-wave therapy works well for small kidney stones located within the kidney or the ureter.
Lithotripsy is not recommended for individuals who are pregnant, as the required X-ray can cause damage to the fetus. It's also not advised for those who are overweight or who have bleeding disorders, the National Kidney Foundation states.
Kidney stones form from crystallized minerals found within the urine, Mayo Clinic explains. There are several different types of kidney stones: cystine, uric acid, calcium and struvite. Symptoms of a kidney stone range from no symptoms at all if the stone is small to severe pain, blood in the urine and painful urination, reports WebMD.