What tests do you need to diagnose kidney stones?
Your doctor may arrange some initial urine and blood tests:
- A blood test to check that the kidneys are working properly.
- You may also have other blood tests to check the level of certain chemicals that may cause kidney stones if the level is high. Examples include calcium and uric acid.
- Urine tests to check for infection and for certain crystals.
If you have symptoms that suggest a kidney stone, special X-rays or scans of the kidneys and the tubes (the ureters) draining urine from the kidneys may be done. These tests may start with an X-ray and ultrasound scan. A CT scan may also be needed. These tests are used to detect a stone, to find out exactly where it is and to check that a stone is not blocking the flow of urine.
What can be done to rule out or confirm an underlying cause?
Kidney stones are common and they are not caused by any known underlying disease for most people. However, some tests may be recommended to rule out an underlying problem. In particular, tests are more likely to be advised if:
- You have repeated (recurring) kidney stones.
- You have symptoms of an underlying condition.
- You have a family history of a particular condition.
- A stone forms in a child or young person.
You may be asked to catch a stone so that it can be analysed. This will help to find out if there may be an underlying cause for the kidney stone. To catch a stone, you will need to pass urine through gauze, a tea strainer or a filter such as a coffee filter.
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Further reading & references
- Guidelines on Urolithiasis; European Association of Urology (2015)
- CUA guideline on the evaluation and medical management of the kidney stone patient; Canadian Urological Association (November 2016)
- Guidelines for acute management of first presentation of renal/ureteric lithiasis (excluding pregnancy); British Association of Urological Surgeons (February 2012)
- Renal or ureteric colic - acute; NICE CKS, April 2015 (UK access only)
- Macneil F, Bariol S; Urinary stone disease - assessment and management. Aust Fam Physician. 2011 Oct 40(10):772-5.
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