Does Stepwise Voltage Ramping Protect the Kidney from Injury During Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy? Results of a Prospective Randomized Trial

Eur Urol. 2016 Feb;69(2):267-73. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2015.06.017. Epub 2015 Jun 26.


Background: Renal damage is more frequent with new-generation lithotripters. However, animal studies suggest that voltage ramping minimizes the risk of complications following extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (SWL). In the clinical setting, the optimal voltage strategy remains unclear.

Objective: To evaluate whether stepwise voltage ramping can protect the kidney from damage during SWL.

Design, setting, and participants: A total of 418 patients with solitary or multiple unilateral kidney stones were randomized to receive SWL using a Modulith SLX-F2 lithotripter with either stepwise voltage ramping (n=213) or a fixed maximal voltage (n=205).

Intervention: SWL.

Outcomes measurements and statistical analysis: The primary outcome was sonographic evidence of renal hematomas. Secondary outcomes included levels of urinary markers of renal damage, stone disintegration, stone-free rate, and rates of secondary interventions within 3 mo of SWL. Descriptive statistics were used to compare clinical outcomes between the two groups. A logistic regression model was generated to assess predictors of hematomas.

Results and limitations: Significantly fewer hematomas occurred in the ramping group(12/213, 5.6%) than in the fixed group (27/205, 13%; p=0.008). There was some evidence that the fixed group had higher urinary β2-microglobulin levels after SWL compared to the ramping group (p=0.06). Urinary microalbumin levels, stone disintegration, stone-free rate, and rates of secondary interventions did not significantly differ between the groups. The logistic regression model showed a significantly higher risk of renal hematomas in older patients (odds ratio [OR] 1.03, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.00-1.05; p=0.04). Stepwise voltage ramping was associated with a lower risk of hematomas (OR 0.39, 95% CI 0.19-0.80; p=0.01). The study was limited by the use of ultrasound to detect hematomas.

Conclusions: In this prospective randomized study, stepwise voltage ramping during SWL was associated with a lower risk of renal damage compared to a fixed maximal voltage without compromising treatment effectiveness.

Patient summary: Lithotripsy is a noninvasive technique for urinary stone disintegration using ultrasonic energy. In this study, two voltage strategies are compared. The results show that a progressive increase in voltage during lithotripsy decreases the risk of renal hematomas while maintaining excellent outcomes.

Trial registration: ISRCTN95762080.

Keywords: Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy; Randomized trial; Renal damage; Voltage ramping.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Albuminuria / etiology
  • Female
  • Hematoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Hematoma / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / injuries*
  • Kidney Calculi / therapy*
  • Kidney Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology*
  • Lithotripsy / adverse effects*
  • Lithotripsy / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography
  • beta 2-Microglobulin / urine


  • beta 2-Microglobulin

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN95762080