Reduced renal function and benefits of treatment in cystinuria vs other forms of nephrolithiasis

BJU Int. 2006 Jun;97(6):1285-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-410X.2006.06169.x.


A significant study from the USA compares cystine stone formers and routine stone formers; the former group had a higher requirement for therapeutic procedures, but this was less if they took chelating agents, although remaining higher than in the latter group. Other interesting findings are also presented.

Objective: First, to compare two types of stone formers (SF), those with cystinuria and those without, for effects of treatments for stones, as cystinuria leads to recurrent stones that are difficult to fragment with shock-wave lithotripsy, and there is disagreement about the efficacy of current treatments. Second, to compare these two groups with respect to blood pressure (BP) and renal function, as cystine stones may be associated with more morbidity than are routine stones.

Patients and methods: Fifty-two cystinuric patients (cystine SF) entering our programme since 1970 were compared with 3215 SF without cystinuria (routine SF), of whom 114 had a single functioning kidney (routine SF + nephrectomy). All patients had three 24-h urine and blood samples taken to determine the risk of stones before their first clinic visit; these studies were repeated after therapy was initiated, and at regular intervals to monitor therapy. Cystine was measured in the urine samples of the cystine SF. All stone-related procedures were recorded, and BP measured at clinic visits. Creatinine clearances (CCr) were calculated from each set of serum and urine values. Cystine supersaturation (SS) was directly measured in 16 urine samples collected before treatment and 13 afterward.

Results: Patients were treated with increased fluid intake, potassium alkali and chelating agents such as alpha-mercapto-propionyl-glycine, as needed. The mean (sd) CCr, corrected for age and gender, was significantly lower at entry in cystine SF than in routine SF, at 91 (6) vs 160 (1) L/day, respectively (P < 0.001), and remained so at the last CCr. Neither systolic nor diastolic BP, similarly corrected, differed between the groups, but cystine SF had significantly more procedures, corrected for time at risk, before treatment than did routine SF, at 4.0 (0.4) vs 1.86 (0.06), respectively (P < 0.001); time-adjusted procedures decreased significantly in both groups during treatment, but remained higher in cystine SF, at 0.88 (0.14) vs 0.23 (0.02), respectively, (P < 0.001). Urine volume and pH were significantly higher in cystine SF than in routine SF, both before and during treatment. Cystine SS decreased during treatment, consistent with the increase in urine volume and decline in procedure rates during treatment.

Conclusion: Cystine SF have significantly higher procedure rates than routine SF, but procedure rates decline during therapy, although they remain higher than in routine SF. The lower CCr in cystinurics suggests that treatment to prevent stone recurrence and the need for procedures is particularly important, and emphasizes the need for a close follow-up. Use of cystine SS measurements may allow closer monitoring of the effect of treatment on the risk of stone recurrence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chelating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cystine / metabolism*
  • Cystinuria / complications*
  • Cystinuria / physiopathology
  • Cystinuria / surgery
  • Drinking
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephrectomy / methods
  • Potassium / therapeutic use
  • Tiopronin / therapeutic use
  • Urinary Calculi / etiology
  • Urinary Calculi / therapy*


  • Chelating Agents
  • Cystine
  • Tiopronin
  • Potassium