What is the prognosis of nephrolithiasis?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: Chirag N Dave, MD; Chief Editor: Bradley Fields Schwartz, DO, FACS  more...
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Answer

Approximately 80-85% of stones pass spontaneously. Approximately 20% of patients require hospital admission because of unrelenting pain, inability to retain enteral fluids, proximal UTI, or inability to pass the stone.

The most morbid and potentially dangerous aspect of stone disease is the combination of urinary tract obstruction and upper urinary tract infection. Pyelonephritis, pyonephrosis, and urosepsis can ensue. Early recognition and immediate surgical drainage are necessary in these situations.

Because the minimally invasive modalities for stone removal are generally successful in removing calculi, the primary consideration in managing stones is not whether the stone can be removed but whether it can be removed in an uncomplicated manner with minimum morbidity.

The usually quoted recurrence rate for urinary calculi is 50% within 5 years and 70% or higher within 10 years, although a large, prospective study published in 1999 suggested that the recurrence rate may be somewhat lower at 25-30% over a 7.5-year period. Recurrence rates after an initial episode of ureterolithiasis have also been reported to be 14%, 35%, and 52% at 1, 5, and 10 years, respectively.

Metabolic evaluation and treatment are indicated for patients at greater risk for recurrence, including those who present with multiple stones, who have a personal or family history of previous stone formation, who present with stones at a younger age, or who have residual stones after treatment.

Medical therapy is generally effective at delaying (but perhaps not completely stopping) the tendency for stone formation. The most important aspect of medical therapy is maintaining a high fluid intake and subsequent high urinary volume. Without an adequate urinary volume, no amount of medical or dietary therapy is likely to be successful in preventing stone formation.

According to estimates, merely increasing fluid intake and regularly visiting a physician who advises increased fluids and dietary moderation can cut the stone recurrence rate by 60%. This phenomenon is known as the “stone clinic” effect. In contrast, optimal use of metabolic testing with proper evaluation and compliance with therapy can completely eliminate new stones in many patients and significantly reduces new stone formation in most patients.


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