The natural history of asymptomatic urolithiasis

J Urol. 1992 Feb;147(2):319-21. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5347(17)37225-7.


An inception cohort of 107 patients was reviewed to establish the natural history of asymptomatic urolithiasis. With an over-all mean followup of 31.6 months, 73 patients (68.2%) remained asymptomatic and were censored at the time of the last clinical visit. A symptomatic event developed in 34 patients (31.8%). Spontaneous passage occurred in 16 patients (15.0%), endoureteral removal was done in 6 (5.6%), percutaneous nephrostolithotomy was done in 3 (2.8%) and 9 (8.4%) were referred for therapeutic lithotripsy. Cumulative 5-year probability of a symptomatic event developing was 48.5%. A linear association was identified between the development of a symptomatic event and the number of previous stones as well as the number of asymptomatic stones at identification. A significant burden of illness is associated with an expectant strategy as an approach to asymptomatic urolithiasis. Of the patients who had a symptomatic event 47% had spontaneous stone passage, while 26.5% required urological intervention and 26.5% were referred for therapeutic lithotripsy. Prophylactic extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, although often advocated, has associated risks and is not always a benign procedure. A randomized controlled trial is required to evaluate properly the role of prophylactic lithotripsy versus an expectant strategy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Risk
  • Urinary Calculi / chemistry
  • Urinary Calculi / diagnosis*
  • Urinary Calculi / therapy