How effective is ESWL for kidney stones?

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is effective for certain types of kidney stones. Very large stones cannot be treated this way. The size and shape of stone, where it is lodged in the urinary tract, your health and the health of your kidneys are all part of the decision to use it. Stones that are smaller than 2 cm in diameter are the best size for ESWL.

ESWL is more appropriate for some people than others. Because x-rays and shock waves are needed in ESWL, pregnant women with kidney stones are not treated this way. People with bleeding disorders, infections, severe skeletal abnormalities or who are morbidly obese also do not usually have their kidney stones treated with ESWL. lf your kidneys have other abnormalities, your doctor may decide you should have a different treatment. lf you have a cardiac pacemaker, a cardiologist will decide if you can have ESWL.
The outcome of Extracorporeal Shock-Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) is dependent on a variety of factors, including the stone size, composition, location, and the anatomy of the collecting system. ESWL is generally most effective for stones that are less than 1.5 to 2.0 cm in diameter. Stones composed of uric acid, calcium oxalate dihydrate, struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate), and calcium oxalate monohydrate are more readily fragmented with ESWL. Stones composed of cystine and calcium phosphate (brushite) are the most resistant to shock waves. The outcome for patients with lower pole kidney stones is generally worse than the outcome for those with stones in other locations in the kidney. Therefore, ESWL should be limited to stones less than 1cm, if the stone is in the lower pole. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.