The utility of renal ultrasonography in the diagnosis of renal colic in emergency department patients

Marcia L Edmonds, Justin W Yan, Roberts J Sedran, Shelley L McLeod, Karl D Theakston
CJEM 2010, 12 (3): 201-6

OBJECTIVE: Computed tomography (CT) is an imaging modality used to detect renal stones. However, there is concern about the lifetime cumulative radiation exposure attributed to CT. Ultrasonography (US) has been used to diagnose urolithiasis, thereby avoiding radiation exposure. The objective of this study was to determine the ability of US to identify renal colic patients with a low risk of requiring urologic intervention within 90 days of their initial emergency department (ED) visit.

METHODS: We completed a retrospective medical record review for all adult patients who underwent ED-ordered renal US for suspected urolithiasis over a 1-year period. Independent, double data extraction was performed for all imaging reports and US results were categorized as "normal," "suggestive of ureterolithiasis," "ureteric stone seen" or "disease unrelated to urolithiasis." Charts were reviewed to determine how many patients underwent subsequent CT and urologic intervention.

RESULTS: Of the 817 renal US procedures ordered for suspected urolithiasis during the study period, the results of 352 (43.2%) were classified as normal, and only 2 (0.6%) of these patients required urologic intervention. The results of 177 (21.7%) renal US procedures were suggestive of ureterolithiasis. Of these, 12 (6.8%) patients required urologic intervention. Of the 241 (29.5%) patients who had a ureteric stone seen on US, 15 (6.2%) required urologic intervention. The rate of urologic intervention was significantly lower in those with normal results on US (p < 0.001) than in those with abnormal results on US.

CONCLUSION: A normal result on renal US predicts a low likelihood for urologic intervention within 90 days for adult ED patients with suspected urolithiasis.

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