Purpose: To assess the impact of the development of less powerful second- and third-generation shockwave lithotripters on surgical stone therapy in light of recent advances in ureteroscopy and laser lithotripsy. As such, we sought to identify current trends in the treatment of stone disease, both at our university medical center and nationally, and to contrast them with the corresponding data from 1990. Patients and Methods: All urolithiasis procedures (ureteroscopy, SWL, open surgery, and percutaneous stone removal) performed in 1998 were compared with all urolithiasis procedures performed 8 years earlier (1990) at a single institution (Washington University, St. Louis). In addition, Medicare data for each year from 1988 through 2000 were collected from the Health Care Financing Administration to assess the national trends for open stone surgery, ureteroscopic stone removal, SWL, and percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Results: At Washington University, the number of percutaneous stone removals remained stable; however, the overall number of ureteroscopies increased by 53%, while the number of SWLs, decreased by 15%. The Medicare data likewise reflect a marked decrease in open stone surgery and a marked increase in ureteroscopic stone surgery with a slight increase in SWL. Utilization of percutaneous nephrolithotomy remained unchanged. Conclusions: We believe this trend toward ureteroscopy is attributable to several factors: improved, smaller rigid and flexible ureteroscopes; the availability of more effective intracorporeal lithotripters (e.g., pneumatic and holmium laser), and the lack of development of lower cost, more effective SWL. This is an unfortunate trend, as we are moving away from the noninvasive treatment that was the hallmark of urolithiasis therapy at the beginning of the last decade toward more invasive endoscopic therapy. Increased research efforts in SWL technology are sorely needed.
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