Usefulness of history-taking, physical examination and diagnostic scoring in acute renal colic

Eur Urol. 1998 Dec;34(6):467-73. doi: 10.1159/000019785.


Objective: The accuracy of the clinical diagnosis of acute renal colic was studied in connection with the survey of acute abdominal pain by the Research Committee of the World Organization of Gastroenterology. The diagnostic efficiency of various clinical symptoms, signs and tests have not previously been analyzed in the diagnosis of acute renal colic, and therefore the study is of potential importance.

Methods: 1,333 patients presenting with acute abdominal pain were included in the study. The clinical findings in each patient were recorded in detail, using a predefined structured data collection sheet, and the collected data were compared with the final diagnoses of the patients. Twenty-three clinical history variables, 14 clinical signs and 3 tests were evaluated in a single variable and multivariate analysis.

Results: In multivariate logistic regression analysis, the most significant predictors of acute renal colic were urine, tenderness, renal tenderness, duration of pain and appetite. The sensitivity in detecting acute renal colic was 0.84, with a specificity of 0.99 and an efficiency of 0.98. To sum up the contributions of most significant diagnostic factors, a diagnostic score (DS) was built. This score incorporated independent variables, e.g. urine, tenderness, renal tenderness, duration of pain, appetite and sex. The DS reached a sensitivity of 0.89 in detecting acute renal colic, with a specificity of 0.99 and an efficiency of 0.99.

Conclusions: The results clearly show that acute abdominal pain with normal appetite, short duration of pain (</=12 h), loin or renal tenderness and hematuria (erythrocytes >10) are indicative of acute renal colic, and therefore, in this particular clinical question, careful history-taking and physical examination are of utmost importance. In our study, the DS system performed well considering the simple nature of its structure. However, to minimize the risk to the patient, we recommend that the DS is used only as an aid in decision-making when there is uncertainty as to the diagnosis of acute renal colic and the need for immediate treatment. In addition, the possibility of obstructive pyelonephritis in combination with renal colic should be considered clinically.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Colic / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking*
  • Physical Examination*
  • Probability
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index*