Comparison of helical computerized tomography and plain radiography for estimating urinary stone size

J Urol. 2002 Mar;167(3):1235-8.


Purpose: We evaluated the accuracy of noncontrast spiral computerized tomography (CT) for determining urinary stone size compared with plain x-ray.

Materials and methods: We retrospectively analyzed noncontrast helical CT and plain x-ray of the kidneys, ureters and bladder images of 39 patients with urolithiasis who underwent each study from July 1997 to February 1999. Stone size on x-ray was measured in the craniocaudal and transverse dimensions by a single radiologist (I.C.B.). The size of the same stone was then determined on blinded noncontrast spiral CT images. Stones that were less than 3 mm. were excluded from study. On CT estimated craniocaudal dimension was based on collimation thickness, the reconstruction interval and the number of images on which the stone was visualized.

Results: We evaluated 58 stones 3 mm. or larger in the greatest dimension on plain x-ray of the kidneys, ureters and bladder, and noncontrast spiral CT, including 15 in the distal ureter, 7 in the mid or proximal ureter and 36 in the kidneys. Stone size was 3 to 18 mm. in the greatest dimension. Mean transverse dimension of the stone plus or minus standard deviation on noncontrast spiral CT was 5.1 +/- 1.08 versus 4.9 +/- 1.08 mm. on plain x-ray of the kidneys, ureters and bladder (paired t test; p = 0.335). The mean craniocaudal dimension on noncontrast spiral CT was 7.5 +/- 1.98 versus 6.7 +/- 1.98 mm. on plain x-ray paired t test (p = 0.005).

Conclusions: Noncontrast spiral CT enables a similar measurement of stone size along the transverse dimension as plain x-ray of the kidneys, ureters and bladder. In individuals noncontrast spiral CT does not accurately measure the craniocaudal dimension of stones compared with plain x-ray when standard acquisition and reconstruction techniques are used. In this regard it has a tendency to overestimate stone size by an average of 0.8 mm.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Kidney Calculi / diagnostic imaging
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Ureteral Calculi / diagnostic imaging
  • Urinary Bladder Calculi / diagnostic imaging
  • Urinary Calculi / diagnostic imaging*