RadiologyInfo.org

Kidney and Bladder Stones

Kidney and bladder stones are solid build-ups of crystals made from minerals and proteins found in urine. Certain bladder conditions and urinary tract infections can increase your chance of developing stones.

Your doctor may use abdominal and pelvic CT, intravenous pyelogram, or abdominal or pelvic ultrasound to help diagnose your condition. If a stone blocks urine flow and drainage of the kidney, your doctor may restore urine flow using ureteral stenting or nephrostomy.

What are kidney and bladder stones?

Kidney or bladder stones are solid build-ups of crystals made from minerals and proteins found in urine. Bladder diverticulum, enlarged prostate, neurogenic bladder and urinary tract infection can cause an individual to have a greater chance of developing bladder stones.

If a kidney stone becomes lodged in the ureter or urethra, it can cause constant severe pain in the back or side, vomiting, hematuria (blood in the urine), fever, or chills.

If bladder stones are small enough, they can pass on their own with no noticeable symptoms. However, once they become larger, bladder stones can cause frequent urges to urinate, painful or difficult urination and hematuria.

How are kidney and bladder stones evaluated?

Imaging is used to provide your doctor with valuable information about the kidney or bladder stones, such as location, size and effect on the function of the kidneys. Some types of imaging that your doctor may order include:

  • Abdominal and pelvic CT: This is the most rapid scanning method for locating a stone. This procedure can provide detailed images of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra, identify a stone and reveal whether it is blocking urinary flow. See the Safety page for more information about CT procedures.
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP): This is an x-ray examination of the kidneys, ureters and urinary bladder that uses iodinated contrast material injected into veins to evaluate the urinary system. See the Safety page for more information about x-rays.
  • Abdominal and Pelvic ultrasound: These exams use sound waves to provide pictures of the kidneys and bladder and can identify blockage of urinary flow and help identify stones.

    For more information about ultrasound performed on children, visit the pediatric abdominal ultrasound page.

How are kidney and bladder stones treated?

If a stone blocks urine flow and drainage of the kidney, there are a variety of possible treatments. An option that your doctor may choose is:

  • Ureteral stenting or nephrostomy: A ureteral stent is a thin, flexible tube threaded into the ureter by a urologist to restore the flow of urine to the bladder from the kidney.

    A nephrostomy is performed by an interventional radiologist when ureteral stenting is not possible or desirable. A tube is placed through the skin on the patient's back into the kidney and the tube is connected to an external drainage bag. The procedure is usually performed with fluoroscopy.

This page was reviewed on June 22, 2015

Images

View full size with caption

Pediatric Content

Some imaging tests and treatments have special pediatric considerations. The teddy bear denotes child-specific content.

About this Site

RadiologyInfo.org is produced by:
Send us your feedback

Please note

RadiologyInfo.org is not a medical facility. Please contact your physician with specific medical questions or for a referral to a radiologist or other physician. To locate a medical imaging or radiation oncology provider in your community, you can search the ACR-accredited facilities database.

This website does not provide cost information. The costs for specific medical imaging tests, treatments and procedures may vary by geographic region. Discuss the fees associated with your prescribed procedure with your doctor, the medical facility staff and/or your insurance provider to get a better understanding of the possible charges you will incur.

Web page review process: This Web page is reviewed regularly by a physician with expertise in the medical area presented and is further reviewed by committees from the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), comprising physicians with expertise in several radiologic areas.

Outside links: For the convenience of our users, RadiologyInfo.org provides links to relevant websites. RadiologyInfo.org, ACR and RSNA are not responsible for the content contained on the web pages found at these links.