First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, testing, and additional resources
Home > Health Library > Shock Wave Lithotripsy
Shock wave lithotripsy is a way to treat kidney stones without surgery. It is also called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, or ESWL. This treatment uses sound waves to break kidney stones into tiny pieces. These pieces can then pass out of the body in the urine.
You may get medicine to make you relaxed and help with pain or discomfort.
You will lie on a table. The lithotripsy machine directs sound waves at your stone through a cushion.
The doctor may use a small, flexible tube called a stent. The stent will let the stone pass more easily.
Most people are at the doctor's office or clinic for about 2 hours. You can go back to your normal routine right away.
Most stones pass within 24 hours after the procedure. But it can take as long as several weeks. If you have a large stone, you may need to come back for several treatments. In some cases lithotripsy does not break up the stones. Surgery may be needed to remove them.
Shock wave lithotripsy is usually an outpatient procedure. You go home after the treatment and don't have to spend a night in the hospital.
After the procedure, stone fragments usually pass in the urine for a few days and cause mild pain. If you have a larger stone, you may need more shock wave therapy or other treatments.
Shock wave lithotripsy may be used on a person who has a kidney stone that is causing pain or blocking the urine flow. Stones that are between 4 mm (0.16 in.) and 2 cm (0.8 in.) in diameter are most likely to be treated with ESWL.
The procedure may work best for kidney stones in the kidney or in the part of the ureter close to the kidney. Your surgeon may try to push the stone back into the kidney with a small tool (ureteroscope) and then use the procedure.
Shock wave lithotripsy is usually not used if you:
Shock wave treatment works for most people who have small kidney stones—either in the kidney or in the ureter.
Risks of shock wave treatment include:
Current as of:
June 16, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineTushar J. Vachharajani MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
Current as of: June 16, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Tushar J. Vachharajani MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.