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Eliminating Stones from the Kidney, Gallbladder or Liver

LithotripsyLithotripsy Procedure

Lithotripsy is a procedure to eliminate stones in the kidney, gallbladder and liver. There are several colloquial and medical terms related to lithotripsy and these can get confusing for the average person. At Almater Hospital in Mexicali, Mexico, we have helped thousands of people resolve problems with their kidney, gallbladder or livers. For many people, relief begins with understanding how our state-of-the-art treatments might help you.

There are two main types of lithotripsy:

  1. Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (non-invasive and shock-based: known as ESWL) and
  2. Intracorporeal laser lithotripsy (invasive and laser-based).

Because extracorporeal lithotripsy is considered a more conservative alternative and usually less expensive than intracorporeal laser lithotripsy, the procedure is in great demand. About one million extracorporeal lithotripsy procedures are performed each year in the United States.

Why Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy Is Needed

The purpose of lithotripsy is to eliminate stones that may accumulate in the kidney, gallbladder, and liver.

The minerals that the body ingests usually leave the body through the urine. Stones often have no definite, single cause, although several factors may increase your risk. For example, excess minerals such as calcium can form small stones, called kidney stones, renal calculi or urinary calculi. If these stones keep growing, they can block the ducts that release the urine from the kidneys, called the ureters. In turn, this causes pain and other potentially dangerous urinary conditions.

In the gallbladder and the liver, many substances are processed normally. As in the case of the kidney, a number of causes can create the accumulation of bile elements, and with time, these too can form stones, called gallstones or binary calculi. In addition to pain, stones in the gallbladder and liver can cause life-threatening conditions and develop into medical emergencies.

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How Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy Works

Extracorporeal lithotripsy was developed as a non-invasive treatment to remove kidney stones and gallstones. The patient, who might be sedated or anesthetized, lies on the bed of a device called a lithotripter. The device emits a focused acoustic pulse intended to break up the stones.

The procedure typically involves the use of an ultrasound or x-ray system in order to locate the stone and aim the pulse. Treatment normally starts at the lowest power level of the lithotriper and then its intensity is gradually increased. The level of pain that can be tolerated and the progress of breaking up the stones dictates how long the procedure lasts, although the average session lasts about an hour.

Is ESWL for Me?

Only a medical specialist will be able to tell you if your condition calls for an extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. We’d be happy to consult with you about whether extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is appropriate for you. Please contact Almater Hospital to speak to our medical staff for an evaluation.

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