Use of the Acoustic Shadow Width to Determine Kidney Stone Size with Ultrasound

J Urol. 2016 Jan;195(1):171-7. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2015.05.111. Epub 2015 Aug 22.


Purpose: Ultrasound is known to overestimate kidney stone size. We explored measuring the acoustic shadow behind kidney stones combined with different ultrasound imaging modalities to improve stone sizing accuracy.

Materials and methods: A total of 45 calcium oxalate monohydrate stones were imaged in vitro at 3 different depths with the 3 different ultrasound imaging modalities of conventional ray line, spatial compound and harmonic imaging. The width of the stone and the width of the acoustic shadow were measured by 4 operators blinded to the true size of the stone.

Results: Average error between the measured and true stone width was 1.4 ± 0.8 mm, 1.7 ± 0.9 mm, 0.9 ± 0.8 mm for ray line, spatial compound and harmonic imaging, respectively. Average error between the shadow width and true stone width was 0.2 ± 0.7 mm, 0.4 ± 0.7 mm and 0.0 ± 0.8 mm for ray line, spatial compound and harmonic imaging, respectively. Sizing error based on the stone width worsened with greater depth (p <0.001) while the sizing error based on the shadow width was independent of depth.

Conclusions: Shadow width was a more accurate measure of true stone size than a direct measurement of the stone in the ultrasound image (p <0.0001). The ultrasound imaging modality also impacted the measurement accuracy. All methods performed similarly for shadow size while harmonic imaging was the most accurate stone size modality. Overall 78% of the shadow sizes were accurate to within 1 mm, which is similar to the resolution obtained with clinical computerized tomography.

Keywords: calculi; lithotripsy; nephrolithiasis; ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Calcium Oxalate
  • Humans
  • Kidney Calculi / diagnostic imaging*
  • Kidney Calculi / pathology*
  • Ultrasonography


  • Calcium Oxalate