The evaluation and management of urolithiasis in the ED: A review of the literature

Michael Gottlieb, Brit Long, Alex Koyfman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Urolithiasis is a common condition in the U.S. Patients frequently present to the emergency department (ED) for care, including analgesia and treatments to facilitate stone passage. Objective: With the new evidence concerning the evaluation and treatment of urolithiasis, this review summarizes current literature regarding the ED management of urolithiasis. Discussion: Urolithiasis occurs primarily through supersaturation of urine and commonly presents with flank pain, hematuria, and nausea/vomiting. History, examination, and assessment with several laboratory tests are cornerstones of evaluation. Urinalysis is not diagnostic, but it may be used in association with other assessments. Risk assessment tools and advanced imaging can assist with diagnosis. Computed tomography (CT) is often considered the gold standard. Newer low-dose CT imaging may reduce radiation. Recent studies support ultrasound as an alternate diagnostic modality, especially in pediatric and pregnant patients. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs remain first-line therapy, with opioids or intravenous lidocaine reserved for refractory pain. Tamsulosin can increase passage in larger stones but has not demonstrated benefit in smaller stones. Nifedipine and intravenous fluids are not recommended to facilitate passage. Surgical intervention is based upon stone size, duration, and modifying factors. Patients who are discharged should be advised on dietary changes. Conclusion: Urolithiasis is a common disease increasing in prevalence with the potential for significant morbidity. Focused evaluation with history, examination, and testing is important in diagnosis and management. Understanding the clinical features, risk assessment tools, imaging options, and treatment options can assist emergency physicians in the management of urolithiasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)699-706
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Analgesia
  • Kidney stone
  • Nephrolithiasis
  • Renal stone
  • Urolithiasis
  • Urology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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