Ultrasound Machines for Kidney Stones
Every year in the United States, over a half million people are admitted to emergency rooms with kidney stones. This common condition leads to hundreds of thousands of surgeries to extract the stones each year. Kidney stones form when the urine contains more crystal-forming substances, such as calcium, oxalate, and uric acid, than the fluid in urine can dilute. That excessive crystal begins to accumulate and form kidney stones. Maintaining a balanced diet can reduce the risks of stones forming, but if they do, ultrasound can help. Ultrasound machines for kidney stones is not a new concept, but it is an evolving one.
Ultrasound for Diagnostic Purposes
Ultrasound machines, such as the Logiq E9 by General Electric, are useful in finding kidney stones. When symptoms like abdominal and back pain, discolored urine, pain during urination, and nausea and vomiting start appearing, it’s time to visit the doctor. Doctors can determine if you have kidney stones through blood testing, imaging, and urine testing. The most effective way, however, is through medical imaging with an ultrasound. The doctor will be able to see definitively if there are stones in your kidneys. They will be visible in the urinary tract or kidney during an abdominal ultrasound. Once they confirm stones are present, then treatment can begin.
Treatment for Kidney Stones
Doctors have several different options when treating kidney stones. If they find the stones in time and they are still relatively small, the doctor can advise the patient to drink lots of water to flush the urinary system and pass the stones naturally. They can also prescribe pain relievers to help ease the passing, or they can prescribe muscle relaxers that not only ease the passing but speed it up. In extreme cases where the stones are too large to pass, surgery is necessary to extract the stones.
Researchers at the University of Washington are developing a new form of ultrasound to combat kidney stones as well. They are using an ultrasound machine to move the stones inside the body and help them pass naturally—they are calling it ultrasonic propulsion. Their machine has modifications on it that create longer and stronger pulses. A second method they are testing uses burst wave lithotripsy to crumble larger stones into smaller, passable pieces. The focused ultrasound waves can break apart the stones more effectively than shock waves, which is a similar form of a sound wave to the ultrasound. Either remedy, if proven reliable in clinical testing, will eliminate the need for surgery as a means for getting rid of kidney stones.