Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kidney Stone Sufferers Receive Relief through Lithotripsy

Local Ellijay resident Christi Card is one of the more than one million Americans who suffer from kidney stones each year. Her kidney stones made it impossible for her to live a normal life because she was in so much discomfort. There are a variety of treatments for stones including open surgery requiring a skin incision, endoscopic surgery through the bladder or the back, and Extracorporal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL). Of these options, ESWL was recommended for treatment of her stone. After a week of waiting to see if the stones would pass, Card underwent the lithotripsy procedure.

Lithotripsy is a general medical term which means to fragment a stone (lith = stone, tripsy = to fragment). Intracorporal Lithotripsy uses devices to fragment stones from inside the body (corpora). Extracorporal Lithotripsy uses energy generated outside the body to fragment the stones.

“ESWL is minimally invasive surgery that is about 85 percent effective in removing stones from the kidney or ureter,” said Joel Rosenfeld, M.D. an urologist on medical staff at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital. “Because ESWL requires no cutting or instrumentation, the patient has less pain and a quicker recovery. The entire process takes about an hour and is usually an outpatient procedure.”

During ESWL, shock waves are generated in a water-filled tube, and reflected onto a small focal point. Using radiologic imaging, the stone and patient are positioned so the shock waves will fragment the stone into small fragments. These fragments then move through the urinary tract and out of the body more easily than a single large stone.

Because ESWL requires no cutting or instrumentation, the patient has less pain and a quicker recovery. The anesthesiologist usually gives a general anesthethetic, but local anesthesia and sedation have also been used. If a stone is larger than one inch, the surgeon may use a stent, a small flexible tube, to keep the ureter from obstructing while the stone fragments pass.

“I appreciated that Dr. Rosenfeld immediately addressed my discomfort and gave me different options to treat my kidney stones,” said Card. “I am so glad that I underwent lithotripsy because it was relatively painless and I was in and out in a matter of hours and back to work the next day.”

While the procedure is 85 percent effective, the success of the procedure depends on the stone size, location and stone composition. Even after treatment, some patients may still have stone fragments that are too large to pass through the body. A second procedure, either ESWL or another form of treatment may be required. Lithotripsy can be performed close to home at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital. For more information about Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, visit

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