At Forrest General's Lithotripsy Center, patients who suffer from kidney stones are offered an alternative to conventional surgery. Lithotripsy - a procedure that crushes kidney stones inside the body without making a surgical incision - is formally known as Extra Corporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL).
Patients prefer lithotripsy for treating most kidney stones because it is completely non-invasive, is performed on an outpatient basis, and lasts about an hour. Also, recovery is quicker and less painful, and the chances of damaging the kidney are minimized. Another benefit patients generally enjoy is reduced costs due to the quicker recovery time.
For the procedure, patients are positioned on a specialized bed. High pressure acoustic waves or "shocks"- generated by an electrode - are pinpointed to the stone with x-ray equipment. The "shocks" are not electrical and do not damage body tissue. Multiple "shocks" break the stone into tiny particles resembling sand, which later are passed from the body during urination. The shocks may result in redness or bruising on patients' backs.
Patients are sedated and monitored by anesthesia personnel, and generally awaken immediately after the procedure. Patients then are taken to the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) for a brief recovery before returning to the Same Day Surgery where their family is waiting. For several weeks afterward, patients should drink plenty of liquids to wash the particles out of their body.