Shockwave therapy (Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, ESWL)

Shockwave therapy (Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, ESWL) is a method of urinary stone disintegration using shock waves. Even though ESWL is a good alternative therapy in certain cases, it has become less important in recent years. On one hand, this is due to the frequently long treatment duration that requires several sessions, and on the other hand to the improvement and miniaturisation of other surgical methods (URS, Mini-PCNL), which offer a higher and more permanent stone clearance overall.

Brief information on shockwave therapy (Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, ESWL)

Indication Kidney and ureteral stones
Procedure Shattering of the stones using shockwaves
Surgery time Approx. 30 minutes
Clinic stay Outpatient
Note No anaesthesia necessary

Questions on shockwave therapy (Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, ESWL)

ESWL can be performed without anaesthesia for kidney and ureteral stones. Therefore, it is suitable as a method for patients, for example, who have a high anaesthetic risk. However, ESWL has some limitations. For example, several sessions are necessary, making treatment lengthy. In addition, small residual debris often remains in the kidney, which can lead to rapid formation of new stones. Residual debris in the ureter can result in painful urinary retention, making surgical stone removal necessary. ESWL cannot be performed on certain types of stones as they do not respond to shockwaves.

ESWL should not be performed on a patient taking blood thinners, as the shockwave can cause a kidney haemorrhage.

In ESWL, shockwaves are transmitted via a plastic pad that is “docked” to the skin. The stone is then located and focused on using either X-ray or ultrasound. Several thousand shockwaves are then applied to the area. The treatment is carried out after the administration of painkillers through a vein, as ESWL can be somewhat uncomfortable. The strength of the waves is then adjusted to a tolerable level by the doctor.

About this page:


Prof. Dr. med. Sven Lahme
Urology specialist

Medical director of the Goldstadt-Privatklinik.
Specialist for Urology, Mini-PCNL and robot-assisted da Vinci procedures.

Member in Scientific Societies and Reviewer of scientific journals.

Creation Date: 08.03.2020Modification date: 08.03.2020