Objectives. To measure, in an in vitro study, the number of shock waves to complete comminution for 195 human stones, representing six major stone types. Not all renal calculi are easily broken with shock wave lithotripsy. Different types of stones are thought to have characteristic fragilities, and suggestions have been made in published reports of variation in the fragility within some types of stones, but few quantitative data are available. Methods. Kidney stones classified by their dominant mineral content were broken in an unmodified Dornier HM3 lithotripter or in a research lithotripter modeled after the HM3, and the number of shock waves was counted for each stone until all fragments passed through a sieve (3-mm-round or 2-mm-square holes). Results. The mean ± SD number of shock waves to complete comminution was 400 ± 333 per gram (n = 39) for uric acid; 965 ± 900 per gram (n = 75) for calcium oxalate monohydrate; 1134 ± 770 per gram (n = 21) for hydroxyapatite; 1138 ± 746 per gram (n = 13) for struvite; 1681 ± 1363 per gram (n = 23) for brushite; and 5937 ± 6190 per gram (n = 24) for cystine. The variation for these natural stones (83% ± 15% coefficient of variation) was greater than that for artificial (eg, gypsum-based) stones (17% ± 8%). Conclusions. The variability in stone fragility to shock waves is large, even within groups defined by mineral composition. Thus, knowing the major composition of a stone may not allow adequate prediction of its fragility in lithotripsy treatment. The variation in stone structure could underlie the variation in stone fragility within type, but testing of this hypothesis remains to be done.
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