If you’ve recently been diagnosed with kidney stones, your doctor may have discussed the option of shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) as a treatment option. This is an advanced practice that utilizes high-energy sound waves to break down kidney stones into smaller particles that can easily pass via the urinary tract. While this is an effective treatment option, it’s important to understand what is involved in the process and how it works before making a decision about whether or not to undergo SWL.
What Is Shock Wave Lithotripsy?
Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) is an intra-operative way to treat kidney stones. It utilizes high-energy sound waves – referred to as “shock waves” – to break down kidney stones into smaller particles that can easily pass via the urinary tract. The procedure does not require any incisions or surgery, and typically takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
The Benefits of SWL
One of the major benefits of shock wave lithotripsy is that it doesn’t require any type of surgery, so there are fewer risks associated with the procedure. Additionally, because it doesn’t involve any incisions or cutting, recovery time is much shorter than with surgical procedures. Finally, SWL is less expensive than other types of kidney stone treatments such as surgery or endoscopy.
Preparing for SWL
Before undergoing shock wave lithotripsy, your doctor will likely discuss your medical history and do a physical exam to make sure you are healthy enough for the procedure. You may also be asked about any medications or supplements you are taking because these could interact negatively with anesthesia if you need sedation during the procedure. Additionally, you may need to stop taking certain medications prior to undergoing SWL in order to reduce your risk of bleeding or infection during the procedure.
Risks and Side Effects
As with any medical procedure, there are some risks associated with shock wave lithotripsy including bleeding at the site of treatment, infection at the site of treatment, damage to surrounding organs due to misdirected shock waves, and pain at the site of treatment post-procedure. In rare cases, there can be complications from anesthesia as well if sedation occurs during SWL. It’s important to talk with your doctor about all potential risks prior to undergoing shock wave lithotripsy so that you can make an informed decision about your treatment options.
Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) is an effective way to treat kidney stones without requiring any type of surgery or incisional intervention; however, it’s important for patients considering this treatment option to understand what it involves and the potential risks in order to make an informed decision about their care plan. Talk with your doctor today if you think SWL might be right for you!