Purpose: Shockwave lithotripsy (SWL) injures renal tissue, and cavitation has been reported to mediate some of these effects. Much of the work characterizing the cavitation injury of SWL has been performed in small animals or in vitro. We describe experiments that promote cavitation during SWL and estimate the spatial distribution of the resulting hemorrhagic lesion in a large-animal (porcine) model of clinical lithotripsy. Materials and Methods: The lower pole calix of the left kidney in female farm pigs was targeted for SWL with a Dornier HM3 lithotripter. Intraventricular injections of polystyrene microspheres were made before and at intervals during lithotripsy to blanket systemic circulation with cavitation nuclei. Following SWL, the abdominal viscera were inspected and the kidneys were processed for morphologic analysis. Results: Extensive surface hemorrhage occurred over both the targeted and contralateral kidneys, along with widespread petechial hemorrhage over the spleen, intestines, and peritoneum. The targeted kidneys developed subcapsular hematomas. Histology revealed focal and diffuse damage to the targeted kidneys and vascular rupture in both kidneys with complete necrosis of the walls of intralobular arteries and veins. Conclusions: These results demonstrate the potential for unfocused shockwaves to damage blood vessels outside the focal zone of the lithotripter when the vasculature is seeded with cavitation nuclei. The wide distribution of damage suggests that the acoustic field of a lithotripter delivers negative pressures that exceed the cavitation threshold far off the acoustic axis. The findings underscore that conditions permissive for cavitation can lead to dramatic sequelae during SWL.
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