How are kidney stones diagnosed?

Diagnosis of kidney stones starts with a physical exam and review of your medical history. Other tests include:

  • Imaging tests: To see the size, shape and location of the stones. These tests determine the most suitable treatment, and sometimes are used to review the result of your treatment. Types of imaging tests used are X-rays, CT scan and ultrasound. Both X-ray tests and CT scans use a small amount of radiation to create their images.
  • Blood test: To measure how well your kidneys are functioning, to look for signs of infection, and to look for biochemical problems that lead to forming kidney stones.
  • Urine sample test: To look for signs of an infection and to examine the levels of the stone-forming substances — calcium, oxalate, urate, cystine, xanthine and phosphate.

A CT scan of the abdomen is an imaging test that creates a three-dimensional view of the organs within the abdominal cavity. Typically no contrast (or dye) is used for kidney stone diagnosis.. This test shows the stone size and location and conditions that may have caused the stone to form. In addition, the other organs within this area of the body can be evaluated.

An ultrasound of the urinary tract uses sound waves to detect kidney stones and indirect signs of kidney stones, such as changes in the kidney’s size and shape.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/22/2020.

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