Emergency department imaging protocol for suspected acute renal colic: re-evaluating our service

K Patatas, N Panditaratne, T M Wah, M J Weston, H C Irving
British Journal of Radiology 2012, 85 (1016): 1118-22

OBJECTIVES: The objective of our study is to determine the positive rate for urolithiasis in male and female patients, and evaluate whether there has been any change at our institution in the use and outcome of unenhanced multidetector CT (CT KUB) performed in the emergency department (ER) for patients presenting with suspected acute renal colic.

METHODS: A retrospective review of all 1357 consecutive cases between August 2007 and August 2009 admitted to the ER and investigated with CT KUB.

RESULTS: The positive rate for urolithiasis was 47.5% and the rate of other significant findings was 10%. Female patients had a significantly lower positive rate than male patients (26.8% vs 61.6%, p<0.001). Urological intervention was required in 37% and these patients had a larger average stone size. In young female patients with a significantly sized ureteric calculus (>4 mm), the presence of hydronephrosis vs no hydronephrosis was 83% vs 17%, respectively. Among them, only three patients required ureteroscopy for stone removal.

CONCLUSION: Contrary to other studies there has been no "indication creep" in the use of CT KUB at our institution. However, the young female patient presenting with suspected urolithiasis presents a particular diagnostic problem, and the significant percentage of negative examinations in females implies that an improvement in current practice is needed. The indiscriminate use of CT KUB in all female patients with flank pain should be avoided, and it is suggested that they should be initially evaluated with ultrasound to detect the presence of hydronephrosis.

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