National Coverage Determination (NCD)

Treatment of Kidney Stones


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Tracking Information

Publication Number
Manual Section Number
Manual Section Title
Treatment of Kidney Stones
Version Number
Effective Date of this Version

Description Information

Benefit Category
Physicians' Services

Please Note: This may not be an exhaustive list of all applicable Medicare benefit categories for this item or service.

Item/Service Description

Traditional approaches for the treatment of kidney stones are the surgical technique nephrectomy (or nephrotomy) and endoscopic treatments via the urethra. In the last few years, several new approaches in the surgical management of upper urinary tract kidney stones have been developed, among them invasive and non-invasive lithotripsy techniques.

Indications and Limitations of Coverage

In addition to the traditional surgical/endoscopic techniques for the treatment of kidney stones, the following lithotripsy techniques are also covered for services rendered on or after March l5, l985.

A. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) is a non-invasive method of treating kidney stones using a device called a lithotriptor. The lithotriptor uses shock waves generated outside of the body to break up upper urinary tract stones. It focuses the shock waves specifically on stones under X-ray visualization, pulverizing them by repeated shocks. ESWL is covered under Medicare for use in the treatment of upper urinary tract kidney stones.

B. Percutaneous Lithotripsy

Percutaneous lithotripsy (or nephrolithotomy) is an invasive method of treating kidney stones by using ultrasound, electrohydraulic or mechanical lithotripsy. A probe is inserted through an incision in the skin directly over the kidney and applied to the stone. A form of lithotripsy is then used to fragment the stone. Mechanical or electrohydraulic lithotripsy may be used as an alternative or adjunct to ultrasonic lithotripsy. Percutaneous lithotripsy of kidney stones by ultrasound or by the related techniques of electrohydraulic or mechanical lithotripsy is covered under Medicare.

The following is covered for services rendered on or after January 16, 1988.

C. Transurethral Ureteroscopic Lithotripsy

Transurethral ureteroscopic lithotripsy is a method of fragmenting and removing ureteral and renal stones through a cystoscope. The cystoscope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. Catheters are passed through the scope into the opening where the ureters enter the bladder. Instruments passed through this opening into the ureters are used to manipulate and ultimately disintegrate stones, using either mechanical crushing, transcystoscopic electrohydraulic shock waves, ultrasound or laser. Transurethral ureteroscopic lithotripsy for the treatment of urinary tract stones of the kidney or ureter is covered under Medicare.

Transmittal Information

Transmittal Number
Revision History

01/1988 - Covered transurethral ureteroscopic lithotripsy for the treatment of urinary tract stones of kidney or ureter. Effective date 01/16/1988. (TN 21)

Additional Information

Other Versions
Title Version Effective Between
Treatment of Kidney Stones 1 01/16/1988 - N/A You are here