Laser lithotripsy is a procedure to break apart kidney stones in the urinary tract. It is done with a ureteroscope passed into the tubes of the urinary tract. Incisions are not needed. The laser breaks the kidney stones into smaller pieces that can either be removed by the surgeon or pass out of the body in the urine.
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a technique for treating stones in the kidney and ureter that does not require surgery. Instead, high energy shock waves are passed through the body and used to break stones into pieces as small as grains of sand. Because of their small size, these pieces can pass from the body along with the urine.
There are two ways to remove stones using shock wave treatment. In one method, the patient is placed in a tub of lukewarm water. Using x-rays or ultrasound to pinpoint the location of the stones, the body is positioned so that the stones are targeted precisely.
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Reasons for Procedure
Kidney stones can become trapped anywhere in the urinary tract, including the kidney and the ureter. The ureter is a tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder. If a stone gets stuck in the ureter it can cause a blockage and the back-up of urine into the kidney. They can also be quite painful.
Laser lithotripsy is used to break apart the kidney stone so that it can pass through the ureter. The pieces will either be removed by the surgeon using a special basket or left in a place where they will move from the ureter to the bladder, then out of the body with the urine.
Laser lithotripsy may be chosen if other non-surgical treatments have failed or if kidney stones are:
- Too large to pass
- Irregular in shape
- Causing bleeding or damage to surrounding tissue
Complications are rare, but all procedures have some potential risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Increasing or large amounts of blood in the urine
- Injury to the urinary tract
- A temporary stent (placed to keep the ureter open) may move out of position
- Need for additional procedures to remove stone fragments that do not pass
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
- Chronic diseases such as diabetes or obesity