Urolithiasis pp 301-311 | Cite as

Physics and Technique of Shock Wave Lithotripsy (SWL)

  • Othmar J. WessEmail author


Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) is a gentle and noninvasive treatment ­procedure suitable for a wide range of kidney and ureteral stones. The technique makes use of extremely short transient (<1 μs) pressure pulses with pressure amplitudes up to 100 MPa (1,000 bars). Brittle stone material breaks into small pieces, whereas biological tissue passes shock waves without significant damage. Different shock wave generation principles (electrohydraulic, piezoelectric and electromagnetic) are presented, and basic shock wave parameters are discussed with regard to stone fragmentation and side effects. Modern lithotripsy devices utilize fluoroscopic and/or echographic imaging methods for stone localization and targeting. As with all sophisticated technologies, SWL requires comprehensive technical and anatomical skills to fully benefit from this exciting treatment method.


Shock waves Extracorporeal lithotripsy Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) Kidney stones Electrohydraulic Piezoelectric Electromagnetic 



The author worked from 1979 till 1987 in the field of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy for Dornier Medizintechnik GmbH, Münich, Germany, and from 1988 till 2009 for STORZ MEDICAL AG, Taegerwilen, Switzerland. Since 2010, he is consultant for STORZ MEDICAL AG.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Storz Medical AG, Product DevelopmentTaegerwilenSwitzerland

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