CHRIS PRIEST / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CHRIS PRIEST / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Woman being treated for kidney stones on a lithotripsy machine, a non-invasive ultrasound technique that breaks the stones into small fragments that may be passed out in urine. The woman's abdomen is immersed in a water bath; a plastic cushion forms a seal around her body. In the bottom of the bath are devices that focus ultrasound waves into the kidneys in a series of pulses. Urinary stone formation is a metabolic disorder which results in precipitation of mineral ions (notably calcium) in urine. Normal urine contains polymer substances which inhibit crystal growth and prevents stones from growing to a size which prohibits their expulsion in urine.
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