The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized (<u> <</u> 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre (2023)

Year : 2001 | Volume : 17 | Issue : 2 | Page : 121-123

The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized ( < 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre

Pradeep P Rao, Rasesh M Desai, Ravindra B Sabnis, Snehal H Patel, Mahesh R Desai
Department of Urology, Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital, Nadiad, India

Correspondence Address:
Pradeep P Rao
Department of Urology, Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital, Nadiad, Gujarat

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized (<u> <</u> 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre (5)Abstract

There is a paucity of cost-effectiveness studies in India comparing PCNL and ESWL in the treatment of renal cal­culi. We are dependent on costing studies from western literature, although the nature of expenses in developed countries is quite different from those in India. This study compares the two procedures with regards to cost-effec­tiveness & efficacy in clearing medium-sized renal calculi ( < 2.0 cms) at our institute. All costs borne by the patient & the institute were taken into account, including equip­ment costs, stay charges & cost of travel incurred, for re­peat visits to the institute. The groups compared had similar stone characteristics & were from our early experience with the two methods. All costing was done at 1998 rates by submitting case sheets to a fresh billing. PCNL, was significantly more efficient at clearing calculi (94% vs 69%) than ESWL, but patients needed hospitalization. The re­quirement of ancillary procedures was significantly less with PCNL than ESWL (1 vs 35) and ESWL was more expensive although the difference was not statistically sig­nificant. High initial cost of a lithotripter along with the need for repeated visits to the hospital for clearance of the calculus contribute to the increased cost of ESWL. PCNL ensures clearance of calculi at a single hospital admission with minimal morbidity.

Keywords:Kidney Stones; SWL; PCNL; Cost-effectiveness; Medium Sized; Indian

How to cite this article:
Rao PP, Desai RM, Sabnis RB, Patel SH, Desai MR. The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized ( < 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre. Indian J Urol 2001;17:121-3
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How to cite this URL:
Rao PP, Desai RM, Sabnis RB, Patel SH, Desai MR. The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized ( < 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre. Indian J Urol [serial online] 2001 [cited2022 Aug 31];17:121-3. Available from:
The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized (<u> <</u> 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre (6)Introduction

PCNL and ESWL have revolutionized the manage­ment of renal calculi in the last two decades. There are many western studies comparing these two modalities with regard to cost efficacy & clearance rates. [1],[2],[3] These uniformly state that while PCNL has much higher clear­ance rates, ESWL is more cost-effective for calculi be­low 3.0 cms in size. Would these hold true in an Indian setting as well? So we decided to compare the cost efficacy & clearance rates of PCNL against ESWL for medium sized (

< 2.0 ems) renal calculi at our centre, a tertiary care uro­logical referral hospital.
The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized (<u> <</u> 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre (8)Patients and Methods

The lithrotripter used was the Sonolith 3000 (Technomed), a spark-gap second generation lithotripter, used at a setting of 13 kV (12 kV in children). Shock waves were ECG gated with a frequency of no more than 120 / minute. Stone locali­zation was by ultrasonography and only a few patients re­quired sedo analgesia.

To avoid any bias in patient selection, the PCNL group was drawn up from our early experience (1986-1989), at which time ESWL was not available to us. Hence calculi which would otherwise be treated by ESWL, were treated with PCNL. The first year of experience with ESWL was used as the study group of ESWL. This ensured that the `learning curve' was similar in both the groups.

The criteria for inclusion in the study were patients with renal calculi <2.0 cms in size which were suitable for ESWL. All calculi in the kidney regardless of location were included in this study. All kidneys were normally functioning on IVU. Patients who were planned for combination therapy were ex­cluded from this study. Patients with ureteric calculi who re­quired a push pre-ESWL were also excluded from the study.

77 patients treated with PCNL between 1986 & 1989 and 283 patients treated with ESWL between 1989 & 1990 were compared. The clearance rates, ancillary procedures required to clear calculi and cost of the procedure to the patient were compared. Also assessed were morbidity of the procedure and the dropout rate before the completion of treatment. Pa­tients in the PCNL group received 1-3 treatments, while those in the ESWL group required 1-9 treatments.

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The costing for these patients was done at 1998 rates by submitting the case sheets for a fresh billing. The factors taken into account include operative and anaesthesia charges, use of Operating Room and fluoroscopy time and material and stay charges. Also included for the ESWL patients was the cost of travel for additional sittings. Travel costs were calcu­lated for the patient and one relative. There is undoubtedly some amount of `centre effect', which can be attributed to the increased travel cost to the patient as this is a tertiary referral centre. The costs of procedures mentioned in the study were not actually paid by the patient, but that incurred by the hospital in clearing the calculus.

Statistical analysis was done with accumulated data us­ing a stone free (complete clearance) outcome as the end point of analysis.

The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized (<u> <</u> 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre (10)Results

The patient demographics are given in [Table - 1]. The treat­ment data are mentioned in [Table - 2]. Patients lost to fol­low-up were excluded from the analysis.

Of the 77 patients in the PCNL group, 73 were completely cleared, 1 patient required an ureteroscopy & 3 patients were kept under observation for the so-called `clinically insignifi­cant residual fragments'. This gave an effective clearance rate for PCNL of 94.03% (73/77). In the ESWL group, 257 patients were available for analysis of outcome. Of these, 35 patients required a PCNL, for clearance and 44 patients were placed under observation for `clinically insignificant residual fragments'. This gave an effective clearance rate in the ES WL group of 69.3% (178/257).

The re-admission for ancillary procedures (1 vs 35) and average retreatment rate was lower with PCNL than with ESWL (1. 14 vs 2.05). Patients coming for ESWL, espe­cially those from a distance, incurred a significant travel cost while coming for repeated sittings. All the PCNL pa­tients were cleared in a single hospital admission with only one patient requiring 3 stages and 9 requiring 2 stages. When actual costs were computed for the two groups, the average cost to clearance in the PCNL group was Rs. 17,350 and in the ESWL group Rs. 20,347.There was no statistically significant difference between the 2 groups. The results are given in [Table - 3].

1 patient in the PCNL group required a blood transfusion. As this was in our early experience with PCNL, the multi­staged procedures were due to difficulty of access or poor vision due to bleeding. A significant number (35 of 283) of the ESWL patients needed re-admission for clearance by PCNL. The DJ stents placed in this group were removed af­ter 4 weeks. There was no charge for DJ removal.

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The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized (<u> <</u> 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre (12)Discussion

Nowadays, patients demand treatment with a minimal cost and morbidity in as short a time span as possible.

There is a paucity of cost-effectiveness studies in India comparing the 2 modes of therapy. Economics dictates that once a patient is given ESWL, we are obligated to clear the calculus at minimal extra cost to the patient even if PCNL is required.

The end point of treatment was determined when the patient was stone free on a plain film. We now believe that for a treatment to be regarded as successful, the patient should be stone free on a plain film at the completion of treatment. There is no place for any residual fragment to be regarded as insignificant. So, clearance indicates a `complete clearance' on a plain film at the completion of treatment. Both groups were analyzed as to ancillary pro­cedures required for clearance of calculus, which added to the morbidity and cost of the procedure to the institute and the patient. The cost incurred by the institute of ancil­lary procedures was added to the cost of the procedure. There was no mortality in either group.

What we find when all these factors are considered is that PCNL was clearly more efficient at clearing calculi than ESWL (94% vs 69.3%, p < 0.05), although the PCNL group was from our very early experience. Also, if anything, ESWL is more expensive, even if it is not a statistically significant difference (Rs. 20,345 vs Rs. 17,350). ESWL is still a rela­tively expensive option for many centres in our country and the necessary PCNL expertise is required to clear the calcu­lus in case ESWL is not successful.

We do not believe in giving ESWL for very large stones especially larger than 3 cms. [3] Although nowadays our policy is to give ESWL for stones less than 2 cms, there are a few factors which preclude giving ESWL. [4]

It is difficult to get an unbiased comparison these days, as the stone population going in for ESWL is quite differ­ent from that undergoing PCNL. This is the reason why the early PCNL, group was chosen considering that ESWL was generally not available to us (or to most others in India) at that time. The early experience with ESWL was used to negate the effect of the `learning curve' of the 2 procedures. This learning curve has affected the results of both the pro­cedures in this study. The PCNL group has 10 patients re­quiring multiple stages, while in 1999 a stone of this size would always be cleared in the same sitting. Also the aver­age admission time is much higher in this group than it would be today (8.1 days vs 4 days [1998 figure]). The ESWL group also suffers from this learning curve. The av­erage number of shocks in this study is 3975, while a simi­lar stone size in 1998 gets an average number of 1724 shocks. Also, there area large number of stentnngs (13.41%) while our 1998 figures for similarly sized calculi is lower (6.25%). This is also a reflection on judicious selection of stones these days for ESWL. We prefer not to give ESWL to lower calyceal calculi with an unfavourable PCS con­figuration. [4] ESWL is also avoided for very dense calculi and whenever more sittings are anticipated, especially if the patient lives at a distance from the institute.

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The poorer results of ESWL in this study as compared to PCNL are probably due to: i) poor compliance of the patient for repeated sittings leading to a large number of patients being lost to follow-up (9.18%). PCNL is cleared in a single hospital admission thereby follow-up is not essential; ii) ESWL patients required a large number of retreatments (average 2.05) i.e., on an average every pa­tient had to come back for another treatment; iii) ESWL patients had a high re-admission rate (35 patients, for PCNL), while the PCNL group had only one re-admis­sion (for URS). This was similar to that seen in other stud­ies; [1] iv) the initial investment in a lithotripter is very high leading to a higher cost per patient.

The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized (<u> <</u> 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre (14)Conclusions

This is the first study to compare PCNL and ESWL in an Indian setting. This study substantiates the consensus felt by many Indian urologists that ESWL is more expen­sive when all costs are considered. The initial investment in a lithotripter is much higher than that required for PCNL. Although the learning curve for PCNL is steeper, with adequate training at residency level in most centres these days this factor is not felt so acutely. Patient compliance in our country is low (approx 10% lost to follow-up) due to a reduced lack of awareness. Also, any small residual calculus can no longer be considered insignificant for fear of recurrence. Taking all these factors into account, PCNL in our settings is definitely a cost-effective and viable al­ternative to ESWL even for medium-sized renal calculi.

The relative cost-effectiveness of PCNL and ESWL for medium sized (<u> <</u> 2 cms) renal calculi in a tertiary care urological referral centre (16)References

1.Saxby MF, Sorahan T. Slaney P, Coppinger SWV. A case-control study of percutaneous nephrolithotomy versus extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. Br J Urol 1997; 79: 317-323.
2.Mays N. Relative costs and cost-effectiveness of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy versus percutaneous nephrolithotomy in the treatment of renal and ureteric stones. Soc Sci Med 1991; 32: 1401­- 1412.
3.Murray MJ, Chandhoke PS, Berman CJ, Sankey NE. Outcome of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy monotherapy for large renal calculi: effect of stone and collecting system surface areas and cost­effectiveness of treatment. J Endourol 1995; 9: 9-13.
4.Sabnis RB, Naik K, Patel SH, Desai MR, Bapat SD. Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy for lower calyceal stones: can clearance be predicted? Br J Urol 1997: 80: 853-857.


[Table - 1], [Table - 2], [Table - 3]
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How much does PCNL cost? ›

How Much Does a Kidney Stone Removal (PCNL) Cost? On MDsave, the cost of a Kidney Stone Removal (PCNL) ranges from $11,563 to $17,912. Those on high deductible health plans or without insurance can save when they buy their procedure upfront through MDsave.

Which is better ESWL or PCNL? ›

PCNL is better than ESWL monotherapy in the eradication of persistent bacteriuria associated with infected stones. PNCL should be used for the treatment of large stones and associated moderate to marked hydronephrosis, as it has a much better clearance rate of residual and infected stone fragments.

What size kidney stone requires PCNL? ›

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is typically recommended when: Large kidney stones block more than one branch of the collecting system of the kidney. These are known as staghorn kidney stones. Kidney stones are larger than 0.8 inch (2 centimeters) in diameter.

How much does ESWL cost in India? ›

When actual costs were computed for the two groups, the average cost to clearance in the PCNL group was Rs. 17,350 and in the ESWL group Rs. 20,347.

How much does ESWL cost? ›

According to[4] , the national average cost for ESWL is $17,400 -- with range from $8,300 to $35,800.

How long does it take to recover from PCNL surgery? ›

Your doctor may recommend PCNL surgery if you have a large, multiple or complex stones. The surgery lasts one to three hours and typically requires a hospital stay of one to two nights. You should be able to resume normal activities in one to two weeks.

Does ESWL require general anesthesia? ›

ESWL uses shock waves (sound waves) to break the stones into small pieces. The pieces then leave your body naturally during urination, so no incisions are needed. ESWL is an outpatient procedure, but anesthesia is required. You may be given a light sedative or a full general anesthetic, if necessary.

What is the difference between ESWL and lithotripsy? ›

Shock Wave Lithotripsy (SWL) is the most common treatment for kidney stones in the U.S. Shock waves from outside the body are targeted at a kidney stone causing the stone to fragment. The stones are broken into tiny pieces. lt is sometimes called ESWL: Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy®.

What is considered a very large kidney stone? ›

Large kidney stones are stones that measure approximately 5 mm or larger. Based on their size, they may have trouble moving through the urinary tract out of the body. In fact, they are prone to become lodged causing severe pain and other symptoms.

Is PCNL major surgery? ›

In the era of minimally invasive surgery, RIRS and PCNL are two major surgical techniques for removing large renal stones [3], and PCNL has become the standard treatment with which all other approaches should be compared.

Does it pain after PCNL surgery? ›

Abstract. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) is a minimally invasive procedure for removing renal calculi, while a large number of patients experience acute moderate-to-severe pain despite the analgesia provided.

Can PCNL damage kidneys? ›

As an operation requiring kidney puncturing, however, PCNL unavoidably can damage renal function to certain degree. A recent study demonstrates that PCNL is safe and effective for solitary kidney patients and can improve renal function at the post-operative sixth month (4).

What is the cost of stone in kidney? ›

Starting price is ₹ 18,375. Average cost is ₹ 22,370. Maximum price is ₹ 28,686.

What is the cost of kidney stone removal in India? ›

The average cost for Kidney Stone Treatment in India is approximately Rs. 21,305. The maximum amount to be paid for Kidney Stone Treatment in India can be up to be Rs. 29,320.

Is shock wave treatment for kidney stones painful? ›

The shock waves are not painful. The doctor may also place a stent in the ureter to help the broken stones pass. For FURSL, a doctor will insert a ureteroscope into the bladder and up into the ureter and kidney if necessary. They will then use a laser to break down any stones they see.

Is shock wave lithotripsy covered by insurance? ›

TRICARE covers lithotripsy for the treatment of kidney stones. Lithotripsy is also called extracorporeal shock wave therapy. TRICARE doesn't cover lithotripsy for the treatment of plantar fasciitis or other musculoskeletal disorders.

Is lithotripsy covered by Medicare? ›

Transurethral ureteroscopic lithotripsy for the treatment of urinary tract stones of the kidney or ureter is covered under Medicare.

How long does it take for a kidney stone to pass after lithotripsy? ›

How long does it take for a kidney stone to pass after lithotripsy? The stone fragments may pass in within a week but could take up to 4-8 weeks for all fragments to pass.

What should I avoid after PCNL surgery? ›

Avoid heavy lifting (more than 15 lbs.) for 4 weeks after your procedure. Avoid fast stair climbing, long walks and driving for the first 3 weeks. Avoid sexual activity for 2 weeks after the surgery.

What is the best procedure to remove kidney stones? ›

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: Your doctor makes a small incision in your back and guides a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope to your kidney to break up and remove the stone. It is often the most effective way to remove larger stones. This procedure is done under general anesthesia and it takes about three hours.

How is a stent removed after PCNL? ›

The stent is removed by cystoscopy during which time your surgeon will place a small flexible telescope into the urethra to visualize and grasp the terminal end of the stent that rests in your bladder. This generally takes less than a couple of minutes to perform.

What size kidney stone requires ESWL? ›

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy

Generally: stones less than 10 mm in size can be successfully treated. for stones 10 to 20 mm in size, additional factors such as stone composition and stone location should be considered. stones larger than 20 mm are usually not successfully treated with ESWL.

What is the success rate of ESWL procedure? ›

Currently ESWL is the treatment of choice for most renal calculi ⩽30 mm, with success rates of 60–99% [1–3]. The failure of ESWL results in wasted medical costs, deterioration in patients with obstructed kidneys, unnecessary exposure to ionising radiation and to shock waves.

Are you awake for shock wave lithotripsy? ›

Your provider will not need to make any incisions during a shock wave lithotripsy procedure. But you'll still need some form of anesthesia (pain relief) to keep you comfortable. You may be awake but drowsy or asleep during the procedure.

Can a 13 mm kidney stone pass? ›

The smaller the kidney stone, the more likely it will pass on its own. If it is smaller than 5 mm (1/5 inch), there is a 90% chance it will pass without further intervention. If the stone is between 5 mm and 10 mm, the odds are 50%. If a stone is too large to pass on its own, several treatment options are available.

Can laser lithotripsy damage the kidney? ›

Shock waves (SW's) can be used to break most stone types, and because lithotripsy is the only non-invasive treatment for urinary stones SWL is particularly attractive. On the downside SWL can cause vascular trauma to the kidney and surrounding organs.

Is lithotripsy a major surgery? ›

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a technique for treating stones in the kidney and ureter that does not require surgery. Instead, high energy shock waves are passed through the body and used to break stones into pieces as small as grains of sand.

Which is better PCNL or RIRS? ›

RIRS is a reasonable alternative to PCNL and ESWL in low-volume lower calyx stones, because it has a lower complication rate compared with PCNL and a stone-free rate similar to that of ESWL. Bozkurt et al. compared the results of 42 PCNL and 37 RIRS patients treated for clearance of renal stones with sizes of 1.5–2 cm.

What is the benefit of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy over percutaneous Nephrolithotripsy? ›

Again, at 3 months, PCNL was associated with an excellent SFR of 97%, compared to only 37% after ESWL. When stratifying for stone size, the SFR after ESWL for stones of <10 mm was 63% and decreased to 21% for stones of 10–20 mm and 14% for those of >20 mm. The length of hospital stay was shorter for ESWL.

What are contraindications of ESWL? ›

Contraindications. The formal contraindications for ESWL are: pregnancy, untreated urinary tract infection/urosepsis, decompensated coagulopathy, uncontrolled arrhythmia, and abdominal aortic aneurysm >4.0 cm.

What are the complications of lithotripsy? ›

Complications of lithotripsy may include, but are not limited to, the following: Bleeding around the kidney. Infection. Obstruction of the urinary tract by stone fragments.


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