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Blasting Kidney Stones: May 31, 2013

It may sound harsh- but many people are choosing to blast or obliterate their kidney stones rather than undergo surgery. Using a tried and true method of directing shock waves.

“The shock wave treatment is called ESWL. A long name- extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy - we usually just call it lithotripsy,” says Dr. James Borden, urologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

It is shocking, but patients aren’t exposed to electricity. It’s a machine-generated energy wave that passes through the skin without hurting it.

“We focus the energy to a very concentrated point. We know where that point is. We put the patient in position on an x-ray table over where that high energy is. And that energy travels from the outside, it doesn’t hurt your skin, it travels to that point where the stone is and it breaks the stone into smaller crystals that can then pass,” says Dr. Borden.

Lithotripsy is an outpatient procedure, performed under anesthesia. Relatively painless, the recovery time is minimal. Making it a popular choice among people who have frequent, recurring kidney stones and those who are taking time off from work to get treatment.

“If someone has a very large stone that will not be the treatment. In those situations we’ll actually make a small incision in the skin and go into the kidney and put a small tube into it about the diameter of my finger and through that tube we’ll work inside that kidney and remove very large stones,” says Dr. Borden.

Under the right conditions, lithotripsy is helping patients get quick relief from a painful condition.