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Minimally Invasive Procedures for Kidney Stones

Depending on your needs and the unique makeup of your kidney stones, surgeons may perform extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, ureteroscopy or percutaneous nephrolithotomy.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)

ESWL uses concentrated shock waves to break stones into smaller pieces that can be passed more easily. ESWL is completely noninvasive; the shock waves are administered using an external device that resembles an X-ray machine. 

ESWL is well-suited for patients with small kidney stones. Your doctor will determine if ESWL is the right approach for you.


During urereteroscopy, a small telescope called a ureteroscope is inserted through the urethra and bladder to reach the kidney stone in the ureter. Depending on the size of the stone, it is either caught in a basket or fragmented with a laser.

The ureteroscope and the stone pieces are then removed. Most patients are given a temporary stent to ensure that the kidney continues to drain urine.

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is a minimally invasive procedure to remove stones that are too large for either ESWL or ureteroscopy.

Surgeons make one small incision across the patient’s middle back and use a thin tube to access, break up and remove the stone.

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