Frequently Asked Questions

​Please ask your own doctor or the SLC staff for individual advice. These questions and answers are for general advice and information only and should not be taken as specific medical advice.

Why do I need an X-ray if I’ve had a CT scan?

Not all kidney stones show up on an ordinary X-ray but almost all show up on a CT or CAT scan. If your CT scan has shown a stone, it is sensible to check it can be seen on an X-ray. An X-ray is a good way to follow up stones that may well pass on their own or after lithotripsy treatment. If you have had lots of stones before you might not need a CT to look for more stones, a simple X-ray may be all that’s needed.

What is lithotripsy?

Lithotripsy uses shockwaves of energy to break your stone into tiny pieces of sand. The radiographers make sure your stone can be targeted by the shockwaves and monitor changes in the stone during treatment. A nurse will monitor you during the treatment. The tiny pieces of sand will then pass out in your urine.

How successful is lithotripsy?

The lithotriptor machine breaks over 85% of all stones treated and we have been treating patients since 1987 so it is tried and tested. Some patients do require more than one treatment. This can be due to a harder stone, more than one stone, or a larger than average stone. We carry out regular reviews of our results to check we are providing the best treatment we can for patients and are confident in our service.

Why have I been told I’m not suitable for lithotripsy when my friend is?

Not everybody can be treated by lithotripsy. Sometimes this is to do with where your stone is, or how well it is seen on plain x-ray. Sometimes this is to do with medical conditions or medicines that you may be taking. Some stones are simply too big and other treatments may be offered. Some stones are too small and would not be expected to cause much bother or would be expected to pass without treatment.

Accident & Emergency said I would get lithotripsy but now I’m getting an X-ray. Why?

We review all CTs and X-rays of patients referred to the department in our team meeting, as well as the information provided to us about your general health. As stone specialists, we are the best people to assess whether treatment is required, and if so what sort of treatment. Not all patients with stones are suitable for lithotripsy – please see above.

I’m going on holiday next week. Can I still have treatment?

This is a very specialist area of advice. If you have travel plans please ensure you tell the SLC staff as soon as possible so we can advise you specifically.

I had stones 10 years ago and have pain now. Why can’t I just come back?

Not all pain in the back or sides is from kidney stones. If you are having pain please see your GP to get checked out. They may be able to organise tests locally which may be more convenient than travelling to the Western in Edinburgh.

My stone has broken well but I still have small fragments. What can I do?

Children are the best at clearing small stones as they are so active. Drinking plenty to flush out the stones can help. Swimming is particularly helpful too.

I have had a ureteric stent placed. What symptoms would I expect?

Some patients are not even aware they have a stent inside them. However, it is very common for many patients to find stents a nuisance. They can cause irritation of the bladder so you may find you are running more to the toilet, getting less warning to go or feeling like you have a mild bladder infection. These symptoms will not go away with antibiotics but will settle quickly after the stent is removed.

I have a lithotripsy session booked. Will my stent come out the same day?

No. If the stent was to relieve a blockage from a stone it is important we check the stone has cleared completely before we remove the stent. If you have travelled from outside the Lothian area for treatment we would ask your local urology team to arrange stent removal once your stone has cleared.

Last Reviewed: 04/01/2013