To evaluate the efficacy of extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy (ESWL) for human gallstone fragmentation, biliary calculi of different size and composition were evaluated to determine clinical applicability of this technique. Human biliary calculi composed primarily of cholesterol (Group I, N = 6) and calcium bilirubinate (Group II, N = 6) were shocked in vitro at varying positions along the ESWL blast path. All calculi subjected to lithotripsy were fragmented. Cumulative fragment size was less than or equal to 2, 3, 5, and 8 mm in 73, 86, 94, and 100% of all stones treated, respectively. No statistically significant differences were observed following stone fragmentation when the two groups were compared. Further, no statistically significant differences were evident when comparing the energy expended during fracture of stones in the two groups, or in comparison of fracture with old or new electrodes. However, when fragmentation for stone remnants ≤2 mm in size was compared at 6- and 10-cm positions on the blast path, a statistically significant difference was noted (P < 0.001). Stone fragmentation was greatest at positions closest to F2. These data indicate that biliary calculi can be fragmented when subjected to lithotripsy and positioned on the ESWL blast path. © 1988.