Facebook Twitter

MOBILE UNIT IS A SMASH HIT WITH PATIENTS, DOCTORS
KIDNEY-STONE CRUSHER SAVES TIME, MONEY, PAIN - AND MAKES CLOSEST THING TO A HOUSE CALL

SHARE MOBILE UNIT IS A SMASH HIT WITH PATIENTS, DOCTORS
KIDNEY-STONE CRUSHER SAVES TIME, MONEY, PAIN - AND MAKES CLOSEST THING TO A HOUSE CALL

A state-of-the-art "stone crusher" has patients and doctors smiling at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

Local urologists are using a $2.5 million mobile lithotriptor unit to destroy kidney stones, thus saving their patients time, money and pain. The mobile unit, which is based at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, allows a number of hospitals in Utah, Idaho and Montana to take advantage of new technology without having to purchase expensive equipment.Also, patients no longer have to drive to a central hospital to be treated, but can wait for the unit to come to their area hospital. It is the closest modern health care comes to making house calls, said Clark Caras, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center spokesman.

The new procedure sends an electromagnetic charge through a plastic bag of water that resembles a concertina and is positioned over the kidney area. The vibrating charge becomes focused as it passes through the water, continues through a patient's body until it encounters a highly dense stone and then releases a blast of energy. Dr. Duane Davis, a urologist, said the stone breaks up into kernels about the size of a match head, which are easily passed through the urinary tract.

"It's incredible," Davis said.

On average, it takes 4,500 shocks to breakup a kidney stone but some patients require up to 8,000 shocks, said Mike Miller, lithotriptor technician. The equipment sends 1,000 shocks in 10 minutes. The number of shocks used depends on the size and hardness of the stone; up to three stones in one kidney can be treated during a single procedure. The lithotripsy procedure, which costs $8,000, is performed on an outpatient basis, and patients typically back to normal within a day.

During the mobile unit's weekly visit to the Utah Valley medical center, an average of four patients are treated.

In approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of patients, a stone does not fragment entirely and the procedure has to be repeated.

Davis said patients feel a sensation similar to being slapped on the lower back during treatment. They may be given pain medication if they become uncomfortable.

Kidney stones occur most frequently in people over age 30, but Davis said he has treated children as young as 3 for stones. Kidney stones can be caused by heredity, obstructions in the urinary tract, poor drainage from the kidneys or chronic infections, Davis said. The stones are composed of calcium and other minerals.

"This means I don't have to cut a kidney open for a stone," Davis said. "With this machine we can treat stones anywhere in the urinary tract system. It is great for the patient."

Caras said the new procedure has outdated techniques developed within the past five years that used laser-beam-generated shock waves and sonic waves to disintegrate kidney stones. Prior to that, patients had to undergo surgery, which cost $10,000 and required between five and eight days in the hospital.