Treating kidney stones with high explosives

Inspired by today’s column:

Years ago, I saw a show where a urologist was surgically treating kidney stones using a catheter tipped with a minute amount of PETN or something similar, and using a scope, placed it next to an offending stone and blew it to smithereens which one assumes were small enough to pass without discomfort. Whatever became of this therapy?


Bring on the “need answer fast” jokes.

Assuming such a thing were ever real, it would be surpassed by the use of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy to break up stones.

“Kidney stones of half a centimeter or less pass spontaneously about 70 percent of the time, and stones up to one centimeter have nearly a 50 percent chance of passing without treatment.”

That’s got to be millimeters, right?

I know if I passed a one centimeter kidney stone, I’d want extensive treatment afterwards.

Next on Mythbusters.

"Jamie want little tiny boom. "

“Am I missing… a kidney?”

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy sounds really cool! :smiley:

Sounds way better than passing a 1cm stone.

“Blast danger! Clear the urea!” :smiley:

No. See:

Preminger, Glenn M. et al. “2007 Guideline for the Management of Ureteral Calculi” European urology 52 (2007): 1610-1631.


Gettman, Matthew T. and Segura, Jospeh W. “Management of ureteric stones: issues and controversies” BJU International 95 (2005): 85-93.

For the Straight Dope

I am never going to be able to hear “Fire in the hole!” without smirking EVER AGAIN. :eek:

Laser lithotripsy does exactly this. Very effective therapy.

Either way, 1 cm stone or little boom …


So, yes, right? All of those references are in millimeters. I’ve passed a kidney stone and the idea of a 1 cm stone is pretty terrifying.

You do realize that 10mm is 1cm right? The cited articles talk about stones size from 5 mm to 10 mm. The SD article talks about .5cm to 1cm. Those are the same lengths.


I’ve passed a kidney stone which was about 3x5mm, and it was…horrible.

It ain’t the length that distresses me, it’s the width. I’d rather use the explosive than pass a .00001 kilometer stone.


Never mind, then.

I have passed two stones that were about 1x1cm and about .3 to .4 thick. This is approximate,of course because they were very irregular in shape. Also passed about 15 more anywhere from 1/4 to 3/4 that size. And what you may think of as passing them is relatively painless, when they rip their way through the kidney the pain is incredible.And, hey,Linus Pauling, you bastard, I stopped taking mega-doses of vitamin C when I found out what was causing them!

Passing stones does not cause pain. Kidney stones cause pain when they can’t be passed. When stuck they block the flow of urine which causes backpressure on the kidneys, which is very painful.

False. The main pain is usually caused by the body trying to force the stone along. Plus they do sometimes scrape things and help cause an infection, which adds to the fun.