Can kidney stones show on ultrasound scans?

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are small, hard deposits that form within the kidneys. They can cause a lot of discomfort and pain. Very small kidney stones may go undetected and pass out painlessly in your urine. However, larger kidney stones can cause health problems if left untreated.

In this article, we're here to help you understand what kidney stones are, why they happen, and what you can do about them.

 If you think you might have kidney stones, you can opt for a Kidney, Ureters, and Bladder Scan or a Kidneys, Bladder and Prostate Scan that can help your GP in their diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

  • severe pain
    This is often described as waves of intense pain that radiate from the back and sides to the lower abdomen and groin

  • the need to urinate often

  • blood in your urine

  • nausea and vomiting

  • a high temperature

  • urine infection symptoms
    Kidney stones may cause urine to appear cloudy or smell foul, which can be signs of infection

What are the causes of kidney stones?

There are several factors that cause kidney stones to form:

  • dehydration
    When you don't drink enough water, your urine gets very concentrated. This can make tiny minerals stick together and form stones

  • diet
    A diet high in salt, protein, and oxalate-rich foods (such as spinach, rhubarb, and chocolate) can make stones more likely

  • medical conditions
    Certain medical conditions, such as urinary tract infections, can increase the risk of developing kidney stones

  • family history
    Having a family history of kidney stones can make one more likely to develop kidney stones

  • medication
    Certain medication such as aspirin and antacids can increase likelihood of kidney stones

What are the treatment options?

The treatment approach for kidney stones depends on their size and location.

  • hydration
    For smaller stones, your GP might advise you to drink up to 3 litres of fluid throughout the day, every day, until the stones have cleared. Most kidney stones are small enough to pass out in your urine

  • pain management
    Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage pain during kidney stone episodes. In severe cases, your GP might provide you with prescription pain medications

  • lithotripsy
    This non-invasive procedure uses shock waves to break down larger stones into smaller pieces that can be passed more easily in your urine

  • surgery
    Surgical intervention might be needed for large stones that cannot be treated with other methods. To find out about more treatment options, check out this NHS guide

What is the role of ultrasound scans in diagnosing kidney stones?

For accurate diagnosis and assessment of kidney stones, medical imaging is important. Scans such as our Kidneys, Ureters, and Bladder Scan or Kidneys, Bladder and Prostate Scan provide a non-invasive way to visualize the urinary tract, and detect most types of kidney stones.
This information can be useful for your GP to create your treatment plan. Your GP can redirect you towards an NHS scan. You can also opt for a private scan to skip the long waiting time and have your results sent straight to your doctor.