A lithotripsy procedure involves using shock waves to break up problematic kidney stones into smaller pieces, allowing the patient to excrete the stones through urination, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Lithotripsy is a nonsurgical procedure.
Before conducting a lithotripsy, the doctor ensures that the patient wears appropriate clothing that does not cause issues with the procedure, explains Johns Hopkins Medicine. The patient may receive anesthetics and sedatives. During the procedure, the doctor places the patient on a water-filled cushion or in a water-filled tub. He detects the location of the kidney stone and adjusts the position of the patient, if necessary, to enable better access for treating the stone. He sends the shock waves through the patient's body to break the stone into tiny fragments. The patient may feel a tapping sensation at this time. The doctor may insert a tube to help facilitate the passing of the stone fragments, and he may provide the patient with antibiotics.
A lithotripsy procedure takes approximately an hour to perform, reports MedlinePlus. The patient proceeds to the recovery room after the procedure to receive care and observation, and he may be able to return home on the same day. Potential complications of lithotripsy include bleeding, infection, stomach ulcers and impaired kidney function. The stone fragments may cause a blockage, or they may require more treatment in order to pass successfully. However, the procedure is generally safe and effective.