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Emerg Med Pract. 2011 Jul;13(7):1-17; quiz 18.

Renal calculi: emergency department diagnosis and treatment.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Howard University Hospital, Washington, DC, USA.


The acute treatment of kidney stones (urolithiasis) addresses pain management and focuses on the effects of the morbidity associated with an obstructed renal system. Minimal fluid intake, resulting in decreased urine production and a high concentration of stone-forming salts, is a leading factor in renal calculi development. Radio-opaque calcareous stones account for 70% to 75% of renal calculi. Microscopic hematuria in the presence of acute flank pain is suggestive of renal colic, but the absence of red blood cells does not exclude urolithiasis. Furthermore, many inflammatory and infectious conditions cause hematuria, demonstrating the low specificity of urinalysis testing. The diagnostic modality of choice is a noncontrast computed tomography (CT); ultrasonography s preferred in pregnant patients and children. Combining opioids with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is the optimal evidence-based regimen to treat severe symptoms. Rapid intravenous (IV) hydration has not shown a benefit. Potentially life-threatening diagnoses including abdominal aortic aneurysm, ovarian torsion, and appendicitis may mimic renal colic and must be ruled out.

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