What it’s Like to Get a Kidney Stone Ultrasound
How Doctors Diagnose Kidney Stones and What to Know Before Your Appointment
When Urinalysis and Other Urine Tests Help in Kidney Stone Diagnosis
In addition to imaging tests, doctors usually order urine tests to help determine what type of stone you may have and why you are developing stones. This information can help your doctor better advise you about how to prevent future kidney stones, saysNaim Maalouf, MD, an associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. At least 31 percent of people diagnosed with kidney stones develop another one within 10 years. (
Kidney stones are made of minerals and other substances that can be found in the urine that can be identified with testing. Types of kidney stones include calcium stones (both calcium-oxalate and calcium phosphate stones), uric acid stones, struvite stones, and cystine stones.
Notably, a urinalysis test and urine culture can also tell doctors whether you also have an infection, which is a potentially life-threatening complication in combination with a kidney stone, saysSeth K. Bechis, MD, an assistant professor of urology at UC San Diego Health in California. If urine is trapped behind an obstructing stone in the ureter, urine can become infected. This scenario can cause an infection of the kidney tissue or spread to the bloodstream.
Doctors may perform the following urine tests in kidney stone diagnosis:
Urine pH TestA dip stick urinalysis can determine the pH of the urine, meaning how acidic or alkaline it is. (9) The results can help doctors figure out what type of stone you have, says Hashmi. For instance, higher pH levels may mean you have a struvite stone, which forms from the waste products of bacteria, while lower levels can mean you have a uric acid stone. (10)
Urinalysis With MicroscopyFor this test, urine is analyzed under a microscope to look for crystals made of minerals that are associated with specific types of kidney stones, says Hashmi. For example, uric acid crystals may be found in the urine of someone with uric acid stones. Calcium oxalate crystals in the urine may indicate a calcium oxalate stone.
A urinalysis with microscopy can also help doctors find evidence of bleeding or infection, says Dr. Maalouf.
24-Hour Urine CollectionDoctors often perform a 24-hour urine collection, says Maalouf. This means patients need to collect all of their urine in a container over a 24-hour period. Some doctors recommend two of these tests over two consecutive days.
From this urine sample, doctors can tell whether people are predisposed to stone formation. “We call it a stone risk profile,” says Maalouf.
The test measures levels of calcium, oxalate, and uric acid, which are found in certain types of kidney stones, saysAnil Agarwal MD, professor of nephrology and director of interventional nephrology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus
Levels of citrate (a form of citric acid) and the mineral magnesium, both of which help to prevent stones, are also measured. The test can also analyze sodium levels in urine, ashigh levels can increase urine calcium levels, which raises risk of developing a stone. (
Stone AnalysisThis test analyzes a stone that is passed out the urethra to determine the type of stone, such as whether it’s a calcium oxalate stone or uric acid stone.
Video: Ultrasound helps detect kidney stones
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