Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) for the Treatment of Renal Colic in the ED: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial

Am J Emerg Med. 2022 Jun;56:127-132. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2022.02.044. Epub 2022 Mar 29.


Study objective: To determine the analgesic efficacy of TENS treatment in patients with renal colic in the emergency department (ED).

Methods: This double-blind, randomized controlled trial was conducted in a tertiary care ED. Patients with a definitive diagnosis of renal colic were assigned (1:1) as randomized to receive the real TENS with frequency 100 Hz, pulse width 200 microseconds, voltage 2 mA, or placebo with sham TENS. Pain intensity was measured using visual analog scales (VAS) at baseline, after 15 and 30th minutes.

Results: A total of 100 patients were included in the final analysis: 50 patients treated with real TENS and 50 patients treated with sham TENS. VAS scores in both groups were similar at baseline. The mean reduction in VAS score at 15 min was 33.3 ± 17.6 (95% Confidence interval (CI): 28.3 to 38.3) for the real TENS group and 14.9 ± 11.6 (95% CI 11.6 to 18.2) for the sham TENS group (mean difference: 18.4 (95% CI: 12.5 to 24.4, P < 0.0001). The mean reduction in VAS score at 30 min was 63.7 ± 21.1 (95% CI: 57.7 to 69.7) for the real TENS group and 14.9 ± 16.2 (95% CI: 19.5 to 10.3) for the sham TENS group (mean difference: 48.8, 95% CI: 41.4 to 56.3, P < 0.0001). Four patients (8%) in the real TENS group and 24 patients (48%) in the sham TENS group required the rescue medication after 30th minutes.

Conclusions: TENS is effective for acute pain treatment in renal colic patients in the ED. TENS therapy could be a treatment option for renal colic.

Keywords: Emergency department; Renal colic; Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Renal Colic* / therapy
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation*
  • Treatment Outcome