Purpose of review
Shock wave lithotripsy has been considered a mainstay of therapy for renal calculi for the last 20 years. Shock wave lithotripsy is noninvasive and requires the least anesthesia of the treatment modalities for treatment of renal calculi and therein lies its popularity. In the last decade, however, there have been changes in thinking regarding methods of patient selection for shock wave lithotripsy, changes in the technique of the existing shock wave lithotriptors and new technologies designed to increase the efficacy of shock wave lithotriptors.
New studies have shown that shock wave lithotripsy may be less effective than other modalities for treating lower pole stones. Other existing technologies, such as computerized tomography, are being used to more effectively select patients for shock wave lithotripsy. Ongoing studies are evaluating changing the shock wave rate to increase stone fragmentation. In addition, efforts are being made to improve lithotripsy by designing more effective lithotriptors.
Shock wave lithotripsy has become a widely used modality for treating renal calculi due to its noninvasive nature and ease of application. Although success rates are reasonable, there is room for improvement. With appropriate patient selection, significant improvements in stone-free rates may be achieved. It is anticipated that, with further research, improvements in lithotriptor design will result in higher treatment success rates with reduced renal trauma and improved patient comfort.