Usefulness of hounsfield unit and density in the assessment and treatment of urinary stones

World J Nephrol. 2014 Nov 6;3(4):282-6. doi: 10.5527/wjn.v3.i4.282.


Computed tomography (CT) is widely used to examine stones in the urinary system. In addition to the size and location of the stone and the overall health of the kidney, CT can also assess the density of the stone in Hounsfield units (HU). The HU, or Hounsfield density, measured by CT, is related to the density of the tissue or stone. A number of studies have assessed the use of HU in urology. HUs have been used to predict the type and opacity of stones during diagnosis, and the efficacy has been assessed using methods including extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL), ureterorenoscopic ureterolithotripsy (URSL), and medical expulsive treatment (MET). Previous studies have focused on the success rate of HU for predicting the type of stone and of ESWL treatment. Understanding the composition of the stone plays a key role in determining the most appropriate treatment modality. The most recent reports have suggested that the HU value and its variants facilitate prediction of stone composition. However, the inclusion of data regarding urine, such as pH and presence of crystals, increases the predictive accuracy. HUs, which now form part of the clinical guidelines, allow us to predict the success of ESWL; therefore, they should be taken into account when ESWL is considered as a treatment option. However, there are currently insufficient data available regarding the value of HU for assessing the efficacy of PCNL, URSL, and MET. Studies performed to date suggest that these values would make a significant contribution to the diagnosis and treatment of urinary system stones. However, more data are required to assess this further.

Keywords: Hounsfield unit; Urinary stones.

Publication types

  • Review