Lithotripsy is a medical procedure that breaks large kidney stones into smaller fragments, helping them to pass through the urinary tract. In the process, ultrasonic/high-speed shock waves are applied to the affected region.
Lithotripsy is a non-invasive procedure that consumes less time and delivers efficient results.
There are two significant types of lithotripsy
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)
- Laser lithotripsy
ESWL is the most preferred type to treat kidney stones as it is performed on an outpatient basis with local anaesthesia. In contrast, in laser lithotripsy, a patient is hospitalised for a longer duration under general anaesthesia. The word “Extracorporeal” means outside the body, denoting its non-invasive nature, reducing the recovery period and treatment cost.
When Do You Need Lithotripsy?
It is required when kidney stones are stuck in the ureter and do not pass automatically through the urinary channel, causing internal kidney damage. If stones do not pass by themselves, they damage the kidney causing harm to the overall urinary system. In extreme cases, it can lead to urinary tract infection, bleeding, and pain during urination.
It is essential to tell your doctor about the medications you are taking. Discuss the side effects and outcomes of the surgery. For example- blood thinner medicines like aspirin, warfarin, and ibuprofen can interfere with lithotripsy. Make sure you stop taking them before the treatment. Avoid drinking or eating at least 6 hours before the surgery.
Your doctor (urologist) will prescribe you a surgery suited for your needs. Gain thorough information about the whole process and prepare for the procedure.
You should give yourself at least 1-2 days to get started with a routine to get into your usual schedule. Follow the medications and preferred recovery behaviour suggested by your doctor. There’s no alternative to a healthy diet and plenty of water. Liquids will help pass through fragments of stone through the urinary system. The process can take anywhere from four to eight weeks from inception of the whole process.
Is lithotripsy painful?
Due to anaesthesia, you will not experience any pain in the process, but when stone fragments pass and make their way out of your body, be ready for a bit of discomfort. Apart from minimal bruising around the concerned area, mild pain accompanied by nausea is usual. Reach out to your doctor if you experience
- Extreme back pain
- Heavy bleeding
- High blood pressure and increased heartbeat
A CT scan (Computerised tomography) is done before the procedure to find out basic intricacies like the size of the stone (s), concerned area, etc. Lithotripsy is performed using a machine called, ‘Lithotripter’, which produces thousands of pressure waves (shock waves) through the body. Though shock wave lithotripsy is a highly effective treatment, it is not recommended in the following cases-
- In case you are pregnant
- You have large kidney stones (more than 1-2 cm in diameter)
- If you are already on heavy medications (serious health complications)
The treatment will be done in general or local anaesthesia. During the process, you are required to lie down on a tub full of lukewarm water or water filled comfortable cushion. High shock waves are pinpointed in the affected area, and the lithotripsy machine will be placed near it.
Thousands of shock waves will be sent to break the stone(s) into smaller parts.
Lithotripsy is usually performed on an outpatient basis as it hardly takes an hour or two to complete the treatment. You will then be monitored by the medical team before leaving the hospital. Make sure to have a friend or family member to take you home, as you can feel drowsy after the treatment.
It is normal to see a small amount of blood while urinating. You may feel a slight stiffness in your lower abdominal area. Other effects of the procedure are:
- Mild Kidney infection
- Pain during urination, even when tiny fragments pass
- Discomfort in the back is standard.
Sometimes not all kidney stones pass through the urinary system, and you may need a follow-up procedure to remove them.
Though the success rate of lithotripsy is relatively high (about 70-90%), the process also includes complications like blood transfusion, improper kidney function (after the treatment), and ulcers in the stomach and intestines. Before giving consent, ask your healthcare expert all relevant questions and ensure you enter the clinic with a clear mind.
It is advisable to schedule a follow-up appointment after 7-8 weeks to check the recovery speed. In some cases, the patients may need additional treatment and chances of developing new stones. Contact the experts at Max Healthcaregroup for further medical information and guidance.
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