Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

A kidney stone is solid material that forms in the kidney. Varying in size, a stone may pass on its own unnoticed, or get stuck in the urinary tract blocking the flow of urine and causing severe pain or bleeding.

Kidney stones are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract. In the United States, more than a million visits to health care providers are made each year and more than 300,000 people go to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Urologists at GW use several minimally invasive techniques when stones are large or cannot be passed easily.

Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL) uses high-frequency ultrasound delivered from outside the body to smash the stones into a passable dust-like material. ESWL is a major advance in the ability to deal with kidney stones.

Even if smashed, larger stones create too much debris to pass through the ureter. In this case, urologic surgeons at GW Hospital use a procedure called percutaneous nephrostolithotomy, where endoscopic instruments are inserted through the back to access the patient's kidneys. The stones are then broken up with a laser or other tools and removed.