11. April 2016

A New ESWL Unit for the Treatment of Kidney and Urinary Stones

Fragmentation Made Easy at University Hospital Basel, Switzerland. The University Hospital’s Department of Urology has expanded its range of treatments for patients suffering with stones. We now have a state-of-the-art ESWL unit that allows us to fragment kidney and urinary stones more reliably and comfortably.


Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) has been an established, minimally invasive method of treating stones since the 1980s. The aim of ESWL is to use focused, high-intensity shockwaves – acoustic pulses – to break stones into fragments which the body is then able to pass spontaneously. The waves can pass through soft tissues unimpeded. However, when a wave hits the stone itself, it meets a high-resistance boundary. When this happens, the wave scatters and exerts a combination of compressive, tensile and shear force on the stone (a phenomenon known as “cavitation”). Depending on its position, size and composition, a stone can usually be fragmented in 30–60 minutes, with 2,000–3,000 shockwaves. Our innovative unit allows us to locate the stone using ultrasound and to pinpoint it perfectly using stereotaxy (a type of diagnostic imaging with a three-dimensional coordinate system which locates small targets inside the body) for effective stone treatment with negligible damage to other tissues.

No anesthesia is required. We administer painkillers, so usually patients can return home after a short visit to the outpatient clinic. The main situations where this procedure may be harmful, and therefore should not be used, are if a patient has a current urinary tract infection, is taking blood-thinning medications, has a renal artery aneurysm, or is pregnant. On the whole, ESWL is an outpatient procedure that is easy to tolerate and rarely leads to complications.

For further information and appointments at University Hospital Basel, please contact our International Service Team.