Lithotripsy is a medical procedure that uses shock waves or a laser to break down stones in the kidney, gallbladder, or ureter.

If stones do not pass, they can damage the kidneys and urinary tract. When medications do not help, a lithotripsy procedure can break the stones down into small pieces so they can pass out in the urine.

There are two types of Lithotripsy:


ESWL uses shock waves to break down stones. During this procedure, a surgeon will use a machine called a lithotripter to aim sound waves directly at the stones through the body. 

The sound waves break down the stones into small pieces. The waves only affect stones and will not harm muscle, bone, or skin.

The procedure takes about 1 hour and usually takes place in a hospital. In most cases, a person can go home the same day. 

After the treatment, a person should pass the stone particles over several days or weeks through urination. 

Laser Lithotripsy

Laser lithotripsy is a surgical procedure to remove stones from urinary tract, kidney, ureter, bladder, or urethra. 

A urologist inserts a scope into the urinary tract to locate the stone. An optical fiber is inserted through the working channel of the scope, and laser light is directly emitted to the stone. The stone is fragmented and the remaining pieces are collected in a “basket” and/or washed out of the urinary tract. 

The procedure is done under either local or general anesthesia and is considered a minimally-invasive procedure.