Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy

ESWL machineWell then, that wasn’t pleasant, but at least it’s over.

Just under a month since my kidney stones appeared, and I’m finally feeling better. This is thanks to a combination of drugs, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, some good luck, and money.

Whilst suffering from my 8mm kidney stone and renal colic, I was taking three types of drugs:

  • Tamsulosin hydrochloride to relax my bladder neck muscles, making it easier to urinate.
  • Naproxen tablets, an NSAID to deal with the large amounts of pain I was in.
  • Omeprazole, a proton-pump inhibitor which dampened the nausea I felt by taking the Naproxen tablets.

This cocktail of drugs made me feel constantly tired and slightly nauseous, resulting in me eating less than usual, and losing weight which I don’t have to spare. I saw a private urologist, and booked an appointment for extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. Luckily, in the time period between seeing the urologist and the appointment for the lithotripsy, my kidney stone moved from my kidney down to my bladder by itself. That was a painful night, for sure, feeling the pain move down my back. However, it was beneficial, as it made the lithotripsy easier and more likely to succeed.

The actual operation was… painful. Successful (we think), but painful. The basic premise of this non-invasive procedure is that you lay down on a bed (similar to the one shown above), have some x-rays taken to locate the stone, and then you are blasted with shock waves to break up the stone.

Before the operation, I was given some more drugs: 2 intramuscular injections (one painkiller, one anti-nausea), one suppository (a painkiller), and one pill (an antibiotic). Once in the operating room, I lay down on the bed, had some warm water poured onto the bed to aid in conductivity of the shock waves, and then the treatment began. Imagine you’ve just been lifting something really heavy, and you’ve pulled a muscle in your lower back, and you can’t stretch or move to try and ease the pain. Then, imagine someone continuously flicking / twanging an elastic band against that area, for 30-40 minutes. To break up the stone, 4000 shock wave blasts were pumped into me, 2 every second. Despite the painkillers I was given, this operation hurts.

It is well worth it though. Once complete, I felt almost immediately better. I managed to urinate out some kidney stone fragments that evening (which, surprisingly, didn’t hurt at all), and have been off the medications since. After several weeks of constant pain and nausea, I feel like a new person. It’s amazing!

The only downside is the knowledge that I will get kidney stones again in the future, as I’m one of the lucky 10% of the population that is susceptible to them. However, for now, I’m healthy, which I’m thankful for. Hopefully I can post more frequently now. Onwards!

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