What is Shock Wave Lithotripsy?

Stones are formed when mineral deposits build up and harden in an organ or gland. For example, your urine contains minerals that can form crystals and result in kidney or bladder stones. Stones can also occur in other parts of your body, like your mouth. Salivary gland stones form when the chemicals in your saliva harden and get stuck in the tiny ducts of your salivary glands. Pain and swelling are the most common symptoms associated with stones.

Lithotripsy is a procedure used to break up small stones. Shock wave lithotripsy, the most common type of lithotripsy and least invasive way of treating stones, does this using high-powered sound waves. This procedure can treat many types of stones in the body, but it is most frequently used for urinary stones, such as kidney and bladder stones.

Shock wave lithotripsy can be done in one of two ways. Conventionally, this procedure is performed when you are sitting in a tub of water, and the sound waves travel through the water to your body. A more recent alternative is to send the shock waves through cushions while you are lying on a table. Although shock wave lithotripsy is not surgery and requires no cutting, you will be given anesthesia before the procedure. Your body should be able to pass the broken-up urinary stones naturally in your urine after treatment. For other types of stones, another minimally invasive procedure may be required to remove stone fragments left by shock wave lithotripsy.

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