Almost one in 10 people will someday experience a kidney stone, which creates what is described as the most intense pain imaginable. This increasingly common condition leads to hundreds of thousands of surgeries in the United States each year. A new device developed at the University of Washington would let doctors use ultrasound to move kidney stones inside the body and help them pass by natural means.
Besides guiding kidney stones to help them pass naturally, other applications could be to reposition a stone before or during surgery; to displace a large stone obstructing the ureter to relieve the patient’s pain and avoid emergency surgery; and perhaps someday to escort small stones right down the ureter.
“Ultrasound is used today to break up large stones. That’s not what we’re doing,” said Michael Bailey, an engineer at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory. “We’ve developed low-power ultrasound that could move small stones to reduce pain, expense and treatment times.”