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Diagnosis of Kidney Stones

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Your doctor will ask you questions about your family and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests can help determine the location and type of stone.

Tests Used to Diagnose a Kidney Stone

X-rayUltrasound

Your doctor may take a sample of your urine to see if there is an infection, or increased amount of the chemicals that cause stones.

Most kidney stones can be seen on an x-ray. This test is helpful for knowing what type of stone you may have. Other studies are often needed to determine the specific spot in the kidney where the stone is located.

An ultrasound is a diagnostic technique that combines sound waves and computer imaging to view internal organs. This procedure provides a more detailed picture than you would get from a single x-ray.

CT Scan

This procedure uses x-rays to take highly detailed pictures of your internal organs. A CT scan can spot small kidney stones that regular x-rays might miss.

Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP)

For this test, a dye is injected into a vein. The dye highlights otherwise hard-to-see areas of your urinary tract as it passes out of your system. This makes it easier for your doctor to see the kidney stone on an x-ray. This procedure is less commonly used today because of the excellent images obtained with CT scans.

Tests Used to Determine the Type of Kidney Stone

Blood tests help identify factors, such as high levels of calcium, uric acid, or the presence of infection, that can cause a kidney stone to develop.

Urine will be tested for acidity and levels of substances, such as calcium, uric acid, citrate, and oxalate, which can form kidney stones. This test provides a more accurate analysis than your doctor would get from a single urine sample.

Stone Analysis

Once a stone is recovered, it can be analyzed in a laboratory to determine its chemical make-up. This may help your doctor make decisions about how you can prevent further stone formation.

Revision Information

  • Coe FL, Evan A, Worcester, E. Kidney stone disease. J Clin Invest. 2005;115:2598-2608.

  • Kidney stones in adults. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/stonesadults. Updated January 28, 2013. Accessed April 16, 2013.

  • Kidney stones and ureteral stones. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=148. Accessed April 16, 2013.

  • Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 22, 2013. Accessed April 16, 2013.

  • Park S, Pearle MS. Imaging for percutaneous renal access and management of renal calculi. Urol Clin North Am. 2006;33:353-364.

  • Pietrow PK, Karellas ME. Medical management of common urinary calculi. Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(1):86-94.