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Study: Ultrasound Effective as CT in Diagnosing Kidney Stones

A new study revealed that ultrasound could be just as good of a means of detecting kidney stones in patients as a CT scan, while exposing patients to less radiation, Reuters reported. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at patient outcomes in cases where ultrasound was used, CT scan was used, or in some cases both in the diagnosis of kidney stones.

While the research does not suggest that a patient shouldn’t get a CT scan for the diagnosis of kidney stones, it does suggest that ultrasound could be a better place to start.

Details about the Research

Here are some key points to note about this important study:

  • The $9 million, multi-center study took place over three years and looked at 2,759 patients who arrived at 15 different emergency departments reporting symptoms of kidney stones. The patients ranged in age from 18 to 76.
  • These patients were randomly assigned to an ultrasound by an emergency room physician, an ultrasound by a radiologist, or an abdominal CT scan.
  • Since CT scans have long been thought to do a better job detecting other serious problems, like appendicitis or a bulging blood vessel, the study also sought to see if ultrasound missed these sort of complications and should therefore not be used.


  • Research showed no significant difference among the three groups in serious adverse events, average amount of pain after seven days, additional hospitalization or visits to the ER, or accuracy in diagnosis, the New York Times reported.
  • Ultrasound patients only received 60% of the radiation as the CT scan patients, Reuters reported. This radiation exposure for the ultrasound patients was the result of doctors subsequently ordering CT scans to be certain of a diagnosis.
  • While some additional ultrasound findings called for a CT scan follow-up, researchers concluded ultrasound was a good choice for initial diagnosis of kidney stones.

Seattle Diagnostic Imaging Services

Via Radiology provides Seattle diagnostic imaging, providing services like ultrasound, MRI, CT scans, x-ray and other imaging modalities. We also provide interventional services and screening services, including screenings for lung cancer. Contact us online for more information.