Emergency department visits, use of imaging, and drugs for urolithiasis have increased in the United States

Kidney Int. 2013 Mar;83(3):479-86. doi: 10.1038/ki.2012.419. Epub 2013 Jan 2.


The occurrence of urolithiasis in the United States has increased; however, information on long-term trends, including recurrence rates, is lacking. Here we describe national trends in rates of emergency department visits, use of imaging, and drug treatment, primarily using the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to describe trends and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine the frequency of lifetime passage of kidney stones. Emergency department visit rates for urolithiasis increased from 178 to 340 visits per 100,000 individuals from 1992 to 2009. Increases in visit rates were greater in women, Caucasians, and in those aged 25-44 years. The use of computed tomography in urolithiasis patients more than tripled, from 21 to 71%. Medical expulsive therapy was used in 14% of the patients with a urolithiasis diagnosis in 2007-2009. Among National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey participants who reported a history of kidney stones, 22.4% had passed three or more stones. Hence, emergency department urolithiasis visit rates have increased significantly, as has the use of computed tomography in the United States. Further research is necessary to determine whether recurrent stone formers receive unnecessary radiation exposure during diagnostic evaluation in the emergency department and allow development of corresponding evidence-based guidelines.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urolithiasis / diagnostic imaging
  • Urolithiasis / drug therapy
  • Urolithiasis / epidemiology*