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3 Types of Lithotripsy

Did you know that over half a million Americans head to the emergency room each year because of kidney stones? These hard mineral deposits form when you don’t drink enough water, eat a diet high in protein, or have a family history of the condition.

While some small kidney stones pass on their own, others are too big to budge, causing even more pain and sending people running to the ER. Fortunately, an innovative treatment called lithotripsy can help you avoid an urgent trip to the hospital. 

At Urological Associates in Charlottesville, Virginia, our team of urologists helps patients in Central Virginia combat painful kidney stones with different types of this noninvasive treatment method.  

Keep reading to learn what you need to know about kidney stones and your lithotripsy options.

What are kidney stones?

Crystal-forming minerals like salt, calcium, uric acid, and oxalate can form kidney stones. These hard deposits vary in size from as tiny as a grain of sand to the size of a golf ball. 

When you don’t have enough water in your urinary system, these minerals become concentrated in your urine. As the concentration of minerals increases, they crystalize and form stones. 

Different kidney stones form from different mineral deposits. Some types of kidney stones include:

Symptoms of kidney stones usually get worse the larger the stone gets. These symptoms can include severe pain on either flank, blood in the urine, nausea or vomiting, urine that is cloudy or smells bad, and pain in the abdomen that doesn’t resolve. 

Typically, the pain from the stone begins when it causes blockage or irritation in your urinary tract.

What is lithotripsy?

Lithotripsy is a noninvasive procedure for treating kidney stones. Doctors use it with stones too large to pass through your urinary tract. This treatment method sends focused ultrasonic energy (shock waves) directly to the stone. Before beginning the treatment, your provider locates the stone using a special X-ray (fluoroscopy) or ultrasound. 

The shock waves break up large stones into smaller stones. These smaller stones can pass through your urinary system. The treatment helps to prevent the need for more invasive surgical procedures to remove the stone.

At Urological Associates, our kidney stone experts perform three types of lithotripsy:

Ultrasonic lithotripsy

With ultrasonic lithotripsy, a probe sends high-frequency sound waves to the kidney stone where the ultrasonic waves pulverize the stones without causing damage to the surrounding tissues and organs.

Electrohydraulic lithotripsy (EHL)

This type of lithotripsy uses electrical shock waves to break down kidney stones so the smaller pieces can pass through your urinary tract. EHL requires general anesthesia.

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)

ESWL uses pressure waves to target kidney stones and break them into small pieces. Sedation or light anesthesia is usually necessary, and you may need multiple treatments if you have a large stone. 

If you have a kidney stone and are seeking treatment options or if you suspect you may have a stone, contact Urological Associates in Central Virginia at 434-295-0184 or request an appointment online. 

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