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BJU Int. 2009 Oct;104(8):1144-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-410X.2009.08500.x. Epub 2009 Mar 13.

Treatment of ureteric lithiasis with retrograde ureteroscopy and holmium: YAG laser lithotripsy vs extracorporeal lithotripsy.

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Urology Department, San Cecilio University Hospital, Granada, Spain.



To analyse the efficiency of extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL) vs retrograde ureteroscopy and holmium:YAG laser lithotripsy, as ESWL is successful in 67-90% of cases but endoscopic lithotripsy with pneumatic lithotrites or lasers is successful in 90-96% of distal ureteric calculi, and holmium:YAG lithotripsy is effective in proximal ureteric calculi.


From April 2006 to April 2008 we assessed 164 patients undergoing ureteric lithiasis in two homogeneous groups: group A included 83 treated with retrograde ureteroscopy and holmium:YAG endoscopic lithotripsy, and group B, 81 treated by ESWL. For laser lithotripsy we used 2071 mJ pulses at 3-6 Hz, with a mean of 1105 pulses and 2.5 kJ of total energy. ESWL was carried out using 37.5-87.5 mJ shock waves, a mean of 3650 shock waves and 187.6 J, with a radioscopy time of 1-4 min. The results were assessed after 3 weeks with plain films and ultrasonography, or urography. The efficiency of each procedure was assessed by calculating the relative risk, and results compared using the chi-square or Student's t-test. The efficiency quotient (EQ) was determined for both procedures, and the focal applied energy quotient (FAEQ) used to assess ESWL.


The overall success rate for retrograde ureteroscopy and laser lithotripsy was 96.4% (80/83 patients), with an EQ of 0.52; a JJ catheter was placed in 67 patients. The success rate for the first ESWL session was 48%, and after repeat ESWL was 64% (52/81 patients), giving an EQ of 0.39. For successful treatments the FAEQ was 9.22, vs 6.47 for the failures (P < 0.005). There was a significant difference (P < 0.001) favouring laser lithotripsy, with an absolute benefit of 46% (95% confidence interval 33.8-57.9%), and number needed to treat of 2 (2-3), but no significant differences for lumbar ureteric calculi.


Endoscopic lithotripsy with the holmium laser is more effective than ESWL, but for lumbar ureteric calculi ESWL is therapeutically recommended as it is less invasive.

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