Physics of Shock-Wave Lithotripsy

Robin O. Cleveland, James A. Mcateer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

30 Scopus citations


Lithotripters produce a signature waveform, an acoustic shock wave. This pressure pulse, or shock wave, is responsible for breaking stones. However, it is also responsible for collateral tissue damage that in some cases can be significant. The perfect lithotripter may not exist, so urologists are left to determine how best to use the machines at hand. One step toward improving outcomes in shock-wave lithotripsy (SWL) is to have a better understanding of how current machines work. This chapter introduces the basic physical concepts that underlie the mechanisms of shock-wave action in SWL. Our aim is to give the background necessary to appreciate how the design features of a lithotripter can affect its function. We also present a synopsis of current theories of shock-wave action in stone breakage and tissue damage and summarize recent developments in lithotripter technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSmith's Textbook of Endourology
Subtitle of host publication3rd Edition
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)1444335545, 9781444335545
StatePublished - Jan 5 2012


  • Acoustics
  • Cavitation
  • Coupling
  • Electrohydraulic
  • Electromagnetic, piezoelectric
  • Focal zone
  • Lithotripsy
  • Shock wave
  • Tissue damage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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  • Cite this

    Cleveland, R. O., & Mcateer, J. A. (2012). Physics of Shock-Wave Lithotripsy. In Smith's Textbook of Endourology: 3rd Edition (Vol. 1, pp. 527-558). Wiley-Blackwell.