Shockwave Therapy for Kidney Stones

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Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy is a nonsurgical treatment for kidney stones. Kidney stone extracorporeal shockwave therapy uses high-energy waves to break kidney stones into tiny pieces. At UVA Health, our urologists have extensive experience in relieving pain from kidney stones.

Most patients are free of stones within 3 months of treatment. This treatment is most successful if you have stones in the kidney and upper ureter.

We use kidney stone extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy to remove stones that:

  • Are too large to pass
  • Cause constant pain
  • Block the flow of urine
  • Cause an ongoing infection
  • Damage kidney tissue
  • Cause bleeding

Fragments too large to pass after the procedure can be treated with lithotripsy a second time.

Kidney Stone Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy: How It Works

Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. Shock waves pass to the stones in two ways:

  • Water bath immersion — You will sit in a tub of lukewarm water
  • Soft cushion — You will sit on soft cushions on top of a table

Your doctor uses X-rays or ultrasound to locate the stone. Your doctor will position your body accordingly and send shock waves through the stones until they're crushed into tiny pieces.

The procedure lasts between 45-60 minutes. You may experience some pain and discomfort as you pass the broken stones. And you may have some bruising on the area treated.

Your doctor may prescribe medications to help manage your pain.  

Recovery After Extracorporeal Shockwave Procedure

You'll be able to move almost immediately after the procedure. And you'll likely be able to resume daily activities within 1-2 days. 

Drink plenty of water in the weeks after the procedure to help the stone pieces pass.