Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) revolutionized the treatment of patients with kidney stone disease when it was introduced in the early 1980s. ESWL is the only non-invasive treatment for kidney stones, meaning no incision or internal telescopic device is required.
ESWL involves the administration of a series of shock waves to the targeted stone. The shock waves, which are generated by a machine called a lithotripter, are focused by X-ray onto the kidney stone. The shock waves travel into the body, through skin and tissue, reaching the stone where they break it into small fragments. For several weeks following treatment, those small fragments are passed out of the body in the urine.