A kidney stone is a small, hard cluster of crystallized minerals or acids in the kidney which usually forms when the normal makeup of the urine becomes imbalanced. The identification of these stones is important to their treatment and prevention. Diagnosing kidney stones is often a two-step process. First, a physician may perform imaging tests to determine whether stones are present in the kidneys or the urinary tract. Next, he may analyze a blood sample, a urine sample, or a passed stone to determine what is causing the stones to form.
Generally, the first step in diagnosing kidney stones is determining whether or not stones are present in the kidneys or the urinary tract. Often, a physician checks for kidney stones in patients complaining of discomfort during urination as well as pain in the back, sides, abdomen, and groin. To determine whether kidney stones are to blame for this pain and discomfort, the physician will perform an imaging test such as an ultrasound, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or an x-ray. If the patient has kidney stones, they will normally be visible in these tests.
Once the physician has confirmed their presence, the next step in diagnosing kidney stones is usually determining their cause. Most stones form when the normal makeup of the urine becomes imbalanced. They may occur, for instance, due to an abnormally high concentration of calcium in the urine or an excessive amount of uric acid. Identifying the exact cause of stone formation can help simplify treatment and aid in the prevention of future formations, and is thus an important part of diagnosing kidney stones.
There are three primary methods for determining the specific cause of kidney stones. First, a physician may draw and analyze a blood sample. If the blood contains large amounts of a potential stone-forming substance, such as uric acid or calcium, it may be this substance which is responsible for the stones.
Another test commonly used in diagnosing kidney stones is urine analysis. As with a blood analysis, the purpose of this test is usually to identify unusually high concentrations of a potential stone-forming substance in the body. Identifying this substance allows the physician to create an appropriate treatment plan.
Finally, if the patient’s stones have begun to pass through the urinary tract and out of the body, a physician may analyze the stones themselves. Normally, the patient must urinate through a straining device to collect the stones. They are then sent to a laboratory, where analysts study their composition to determine what type of imbalance has caused them.