Here’s How Doctors Diagnose Kidney Stones Using Medical Imaging Technologies

Kidney stones can be a serious health problem, severely limiting activity and movement. Luckily, with significant advances in medical technology, several imaging modalities can painlessly and unobtrusively diagnose this condition. These include abdominal X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, ultrasounds, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

All of these tests help to doctors quickly and correctly diagnose kidney stones. Ultimately, that leads to better health outcomes and faster relief from symptoms. When physicians suspect kidney stones, they may order any of the following imaging tests for a speedy diagnosis:

  • Abdominal X-Ray

    Typically the least invasive of all the imagery procedures listed, this is a simple X-ray. Physicians also call this procedure KUB radiography, which stands for kidney, ureters, and bladder. While perhaps the easiest of all options, it also can be less accurate. Abdominal X-ray scans have the potential to miss smaller stones, or those that may be sitting at an odd angle — however, X-rays are still accurate 75 to 90 percent of the time.

    Note, also, that X-rays are typically the most cost-effective of all options. The X-ray procedure may or may not include a contrast agent, and when used with contrast may also be known as intravenous pyelogram (IVP). While an IVP does increase X-ray accuracy, it is still not the most effective imaging standard used to diagnose kidney stones.

  • CT Scan

    The CT scan is considered by many in the medical profession to be the most effective and accurate when it comes to imaging diagnoses of kidney stones. In this procedure, the patient absorbs a minute amount of radiation, similar to an X-ray. However, the CT is much more accurate, thanks to its three-dimensional results.

    This added dimension allows for a more accurate and thorough examination of the abdominal area, leading to the highest precision of all imagine techniques. Also, contrast studies are very rarely necessary with a CT scan, so the procedure remains less invasive.

  • Ultrasound

    Another of the more affordable options, ultrasounds do not utilize the radiography that CT scans and X-rays employ. This makes the procedure safer for those who should not be exposed to any amount of radiation, such as pregnant women or pediatric patients. An ultrasound scan is not as accurate at spotting kidney stones as CT scan, but it is on par with X-ray imaging, and can be considered reliable and effective in the diagnoses of kidney stones.

    There are several types of ultrasound available, including Doppler and B-mode. These are similar to procedures OBGYNs use with pregnant women. While there are certainly limitations to this imagery method, due to its relative low cost and expediency in diagnosis time, doctors depend on ultrasonography in many cases of suspected kidney stones.

  • MRI Scans

    Another imagery technique that does not utilize any form of radiation is the MRI, which makes use of a magnetic field and proton alignment to create a rendering of the problem area. While more accurate than either an ultrasound or KUB X-ray, the CT scan still captures the highest percentage of kidney stone images.

    Unfortunately, MRI scans at hospitals can cost up to three times the amount as a CT scan. This causes problems in situations in which doctors prefer MRI to CT scans, such as when a patient is pregnant and an ultrasound has proven ineffective, but doctors still suspect kidney stones.

The solution is to choose an imaging provider that offers the same great service as a hospital, but at a fraction of the cost. keeps MRI costs as low as possible by avoiding the wide variety of expenses associated with large, complex hospital systems.

If your doctor suspects kidney stones and orders an MRI, CT scan, or any other imaging procedure, call at 888-322-7785 today.