Radiologic investigation of renal colic: unenhanced helical CT compared with excretory urography

S Sourtzis, J F Thibeau, N Damry, A Raslan, M Vandendris, M Bellemans
AJR. American Journal of Roentgenology 1999, 172 (6): 1491-4

OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to compare unenhanced helical CT and excretory urography in the assessment of patients with renal colic.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Fifty-three of 70 consecutive patients with acute signs of renal colic were prospectively examined with unenhanced helical CT, which was followed immediately by excretory urography. Two radiologists who were unaware of the findings independently interpreted these examinations to determine the presence or absence of ureteral obstruction. On all CT scans that had positive findings for ureteral stones or obstruction, we looked for secondary signs of obstruction (perinephric or periureteral fat stranding, ureteral wall edema, ureteral dilatation, and blurring of renal sinus fat).

RESULTS: A stone was recovered in 45 of the 53 patients, nine before and 36 after imaging. The latter 36 patients had their stones identified on CT, whereas only 24 patients had their stones identified on excretory urography. Eight patients without stone disease had normal ureters on both CT and excretory urography. Of the 45 patients who had stone disease, 26 had ureteral dilatation on both CT and excretory urography, and 36 patients who recovered a stone after CT had secondary signs of obstruction. Of the nine patients who recovered a stone before CT, three had secondary signs of obstruction. Two patients had periureteral fat stranding, ureteral wall edema, and renal sinus fat blurring. One patient had only ureteral wall edema.

CONCLUSION: Compared with excretory urography, unenhanced helical CT is better for identifying ureteral stones in patients with acute ureterolithiasis. Secondary CT signs of obstruction, including renal sinus fat blurring, were frequently present even when the stone was eliminated before imaging.

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