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Pneumatic lithotripsy has been shown to be an effective and safe intracorporeal lithotripsy modality for renal and ureteral calculi, capable of fragmenting stones of all compositions. We determined the in vitro stone fragmentation abilities of the 0.5 mm flexible pneumatic lithotripsy probe when inserted through the working channel of 2, 7.5Fr flexible ureteroscope designs (straight working channel and offset working channel at approximately 30 degrees from the long axis of the endoscope). The velocity and displacement of the pneumatic probe tip were also evaluated with the probe inserted through each endoscope.

Materials and Methods:

The 0.5 mm (1.5Fr) stainless steel probe was tested at 5 deflection angles, namely 0, 12, 24, 33 and 48 degrees, at a pneumatic pressure of 2.5 bar when inserted through the offset and straight working channel ureteroscopes. A noncontact optical laser system was used to measure or calculate the displacement and velocity of the 0.5 mm probe tip at each angle of deflection with the 2 ureteroscopes. Fragmentation at all deflection angles was assessed using plaster of Paris stone phantoms with the pneumatic device on continuous mode at 2.5 bar pressure for 30 seconds. Stones were weighed after each fragmentation cycle and the percent weight lost was determined. Comparisons were made between the 2 ureteroscopes at each angle.


Probe tip displacement was significantly better through the straight channel ureteroscope with 30% improvement at all angles tested compared to the offset channel. Moreover, a substantial decrement in tip displacement was noted as the angle of deflection increased regardless of the endoscope used. Conversely tip velocity was relatively unchanged throughout the study and it was equivalent from straight to offset channel measurements. Phantom stone fragmentation correlated inversely with the severity of the deflection angle. An approximately 80% loss of fragmentation ability was noted as the angle increased from 0 to 48 degrees. Although the pneumatic device performed better through the straight channel scope, a similar percent loss in fragmentation from 0 to 48 degrees was seen when using either endoscope.


The flexible pneumatic 0.5 mm lithotripsy probe appears to be best used through a straight channel flexible ureteroscope, out performing use through the offset channel scope at all angles of deflection. Tip displacement and fragmentation ability were inversely related to the degree of active deflection as the angle increased from 0 to 48 degrees. Use of the flexible pneumatic probe to aid in managing renal or proximal ureteral calculi may be limited until an improved probe can be developed, allowing complete and unencumbered fragmentation throughout all angles of deflection.


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From the Department of Urology, Naval Medical Center (BKA), San Diego, California, and Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center, Division of Urology, Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center (JJS, WPS, GMP) and Department of Mechanical Engineering, Duke University (SZ, PZ), Durham, North Carolina