Nephrolithiasis in Pregnancy: Treating for Two

Urology. 2021 May;151:44-53. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2020.06.097. Epub 2020 Aug 28.


Objectives: To review the literature regarding the epidemiology of stone disease and develop a management algorithm based on current evidence and societal guidelines.

Methods: A structured literature review was performed to determine highest quality of evidence guiding care for pregnant patients with symptomatic nephrolithiasis. PUBMED and EMBASE databases were searched using terms "pregnancy," "nephrolithiasis," or "pregnancy" and "renal colic" alone and in combination with "stone", "kidney stone," "ultrasound," "MRI," "CT," "percutaneous nephrostomy," "ureteral stent," or "ureteroscopy." All English-language abstracts were reviewed for relevance and full-length articles were reviewed for content. Articles published prior to 1990 were excluded, and priority for inclusion was given to multi-institutional studies and larger institutional studies, reflecting the highest level of current available evidence and most contemporaneous practice patterns.

Results: Symptomatic nephrolithiasis affects less than 1% of pregnancies but poses unique diagnostic challenges due to the physiologic changes of pregnancy and risks of ionizing radiation exposure to the fetus. Ultrasound remains the imaging modality of choice. Most patients may be managed non-operatively, but drainage with percutaneous nephrostomy or ureteral stent may be performed if warranted. Growing evidence also supports the safety and efficacy of definitive stone treatment.

Conclusions: Though rare, symptomatic nephrolithiasis poses significant clinical challenges due to the need to minimize risk for both mother and fetus with diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. A multi-disciplinary approach is paramount, as is shared decision making with the patient at each step of care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nephrolithiasis / epidemiology
  • Nephrolithiasis / therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / therapy*