Learn more about Lithotripsy below.
Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (SWL or lithotripsy) has successfully been used to treat renal tract stones since the early 1980s. The treatment relies on the human body being mostly made of water to allow the passage of shockwaves through tissues which impact on the stones within the kidney or ureter and break them up into small pieces which can be easily passed out through urine. Lithotripsy has revolutionised the treatment of stones which previously relied on operations that left patients in hospital for days and took many weeks for recovery.
The initial machines were so powerful that patients had to have a general anaesthetic and be held in a bath of water, but over time the machines have become smaller, the technology more reliable and anaesthetic requirements have reduced. With more experience it has been discovered that there are limitations to the types of stones that can be treated and the initial hope that all stones could be cleared using this non-invasive treatment have been tempered.
It is now reserved for stones less than 2cm in maximum size and there may also be patient factors that make successful treatment less likely, such as a long calyceal infundibulum or a calyceal diverticulum. Lithotripters are extremely good at breaking up stones but the fragments may not drain away. Patient selection is therefore critical.
We want to provide as much support to GPs as possible and are happy to provide roadshows or demonstrations within the new unit.