Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Shock Wave Lithotripsy

Shock Wave Lithotripsy

Treatment Overview

Shock wave lithotripsy is a way to treat kidney stones without surgery. It is also called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, or ESWL. This treatment uses sound waves to break kidney stones into tiny pieces. These pieces can then pass out of the body in the urine.

You may get medicine to make you relaxed and help with pain or discomfort.

You will lie on a table. The lithotripsy machine directs sound waves at your stone through a cushion.

The doctor may use a small, flexible tube called a stent. The stent will let the stone pass more easily.

Most people are at the doctor's office or clinic for about 2 hours. You can go back to your normal routine right away.

Most stones pass within 24 hours after the procedure. But it can take as long as several weeks. If you have a large stone, you may need to come back for several treatments. In some cases lithotripsy does not break up the stones. Surgery may be needed to remove them.

What To Expect

What To Expect

Shock wave lithotripsy is usually an outpatient procedure. You go home after the treatment and don't have to spend a night in the hospital.

After the procedure, stone fragments usually pass in the urine for a few days and cause mild pain. If you have a larger stone, you may need more shock wave therapy or other treatments.

Why It Is Done

Why It Is Done

Shock wave lithotripsy may be used on a person who has a kidney stone that is causing pain or blocking the urine flow. Stones that are between 4 mm (0.16 in.) and 2 cm (0.8 in.) in diameter are most likely to be treated with ESWL.

The procedure may work best for kidney stones in the kidney or in the part of the ureter close to the kidney. Your surgeon may try to push the stone back into the kidney with a small tool (ureteroscope) and then use the procedure.

Shock wave lithotripsy is usually not used if you:

  • Are pregnant. The sound waves and X-rays may be harmful to the fetus.
  • Have a bleeding disorder.
  • Have a kidney infection, urinary tract infection, or kidney cancer.
  • Have kidneys with abnormal structure or function.

Explore more

How Well It Works

How Well It Works

Shock wave treatment works for most people who have small kidney stones—either in the kidney or in the ureter.

Risks

Risks

Risks of shock wave treatment include:

  • Pain caused by the passage of stone fragments.
  • Blocked urine flow because of stone fragments getting stuck in the urinary tract. The fragments may then need to be removed with a ureteroscope.
  • Urinary tract infection.
  • Bleeding around the outside of the kidney.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details