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How Are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?


One of the principal ways employed for the detection of kidney stones is computerized tomography (CT).(1) A spiral scan of this type shoots out very thin X-rays and pick up on the presence of tony kidney stones that may otherwise be undetectable. A CT urogram, meanwhile, involves the injection first of an iodine dye into the bloodstream. The dye points up better images of the bladder, kidneys and ureters.

Another form of X-raying that involves a dye is something called intravenous pyelography. An abdominal X-ray, meanwhile, relies on more conventional scanning methods.

Other Methods

Although ultrasound radio waves are counted on less often by physicians than CT X-rays or urograms, they are sometimes the first level of diagnostic testing. Although they often cannot detect smaller kidney stones in areas like the bladder and ureter, they are a logical starting point when the patient is a young child or pregnant woman.

On a more standard basis, urine and blood tests can be administered.(2) And for those patients who have been clearly identified as having small kidney stones, these individuals may be asked to pee through a strainer, so that a kidney stone can be retrieved and subsequently sent to the lab for analysis.

Detection Among Children

With the incidence of kidney stones among children having tripled in the past ten years, the issue of how to diagnose kids has become more paramount at clinics and hospitals.(3) At Boston Childrens Hospital, the proportions went from 18.4 kids per 100,000 patients in 1999 to 57 kids per 100,000 in 2008.

With that comes a need for more X-Rays and concerns about the effect of this type of diagnostic treatment on young patients. Depending on the hospital, kids suspected of having kidney stones are either generally over-treated or under-treated, adding one more complication to the growing horizon of diagnosis tools used to detect the stones.




(1) Mayo Clinic – Kidney Stones: Diagnosis, Retrieved October 4, 2011 from

(2) University of Wisconsin – Kidney Stone Diagnosis, Retrieved October 4, 2011 from

(3) Children’s Hospital Boston – “Rise in Kidney Stones in Kids and Higher Radiation Imaging”, September 29, 2010, Retrieved October 4, 2011 from

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