What Is a Lithotripsy for Kidney Stones?


Quick Answer

During a lithotripsy procedure, a machine sends high energy shockwaves through the body to break kidney stones into small pieces, according to MedlinePlus. The tiny stones then exit the body through the urine. A lithotripsy procedure takes around 45 to 60 minutes.

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Full Answer

There are two main ways doctors perform lithotripsy, according to the National Kidney Foundation. In the first method, the health care team positions the patient in a tub of lukewarm water, and doctors use ultrasound or X-rays to target the exact location of the kidney stones. The second and more common lithotripsy method requires the patient to lie on a soft cushion or membrane. The shockwaves pass through the membrane and destroy the kidney stones. It typically takes 1,000 to 2,000 shockwaves to destroy kidney stones thoroughly.

During a lithotripsy procedure, patients usually receive sedation or a form of anesthesia to help them remain relaxed and still throughout the procedure, according to the National Kidney Foundation. After lithotripsy, patients may experience blood in their urine for several days. The patient may also feel mild discomfort as the kidney stone fragments pass out of the body, which may take four to eight weeks. Most patients can resume normal activities one or two days after a lithotripsy procedure.

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