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Diagnosis of Kidney Stones

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

Urinalysis and urine culture

Urine tests look for the presence of an infection or an increased amount of chemicals that cause stones.

X-ray

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.

Ultrasound

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

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    TOP

Blood Tests

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.

24-hour Urine Collection

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.

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References:

Coe FL, Evan A, Worcester, E. Kidney stone disease. J Clin Invest. 2005;115(10):2598-2608.
Kidney stones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
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Accessed March 6, 2017.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis. Updated January 15, 2017. Accessed March 6, 2017.
Park S, Pearle MS. Imaging for percutaneous renal access and management of renal calculi. Urol Clin North Am. 2006;33(3):353-364.
Pietrow PK, Karellas ME. Medical management of common urinary calculi. Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(1):86-94.
What are kidney stones? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at:
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Accessed March 6, 2017.
Last reviewed March 2017 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 3/15/2015

 

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