People have suffered from kidney stones throughout history and they have been identified in Egyptian mummies dating back nearly 5000 years. However, the rates are rising and they currently affect around 3% of people in the UK.
The most common way of treating kidney stones that cannot be passed out of the body is extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). The meaning of lithotripsy in fact comes from the Greek words "litho", which means stone and "tripsy" meaning crushed.ESWL is a non-invasive procedure that was developed in the 1980’s and it uses high-energy shock waves to break down kidney stones into crystals that are small enough to be passed out in the urine. The position of the kidney stone is pinpointed using ultrasound and amachine then sends high energy sound waves through the body to the stone to break it into smaller pieces. The shockwaves pass through the body without causing damage due to the minimal difference in density of soft tissue.
Consultant Urological Surgeon Mr Leye Ajayi explains: “In ESWL, shockwaves that are created outside the body travel through the skin and body tissues safely and target the denser stones. Often the procedure can be carried out on an outpatient basis and most people are able to resume their normal activities the following day.”