Renal colic

Renal colic
Localization of pain caused by kidney stones
Specialty Urology 
Complications renal failure

Renal colic is a type of abdominal pain commonly caused by kidney stones.


Renal colic typically begins in the flank and often radiates to the hypochondrium (the part of the anterior abdominal wall below the costal margins) or the groin. It is typically colicky (comes in waves) due to ureteric peristalsis, but may be constant. It is often described as one of the strongest pain sensations known.[1]

Although this condition can be very painful, kidney stones usually cause no permanent physical damage. The experience is said to be traumatizing due to pain, and the experience of passing blood, blood clots, and pieces of the stone. Depending on the sufferer's situation, nothing more than drinking significant amounts of water may be called for; in other instances, surgery may be needed. Preventive treatment can be instituted to minimize the likelihood of recurrence.[2]

Prognosis and treatment

Most small stones are passed spontaneously and only pain management is required. Above 5 mm the rate of spontaneous stone passage decreases.[3] NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as diclofenac[4] or ibuprofen, and antispasmodics like butylscopolamine are used. Although morphine may be administered to assist with emergency pain management, it is often not recommended as morphine is very addictive and raises ureteral pressure, worsening the condition. Vomiting as well is considered an important adverse effect of opioids, mainly with pethidine.[5] Oral narcotic medications are also often used. There is typically no antalgic position for the patient (lying down on the non-aching side and applying a hot bottle or towel to the area affected may help). Larger stones may require surgical intervention for their removal, such as shockwave lithotripsy, ureteroscopy or percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Patients can also be treated with alpha blockers[6] in cases where the stone is located in the ureter.


  1. Nephrolithiasis~Overview at eMedicine § Background.
  2. "eMedicine - Nephrolithiasis: Acute Renal Colic: Article by Stephen W Leslie". Retrieved 2008-01-01.
  3. Ordon, Michael; Andonian, Sero; Blew, Brian; Schuler, Trevor; Chew, Ben; Pace, Kenneth T. (2015-01-01). "CUA Guideline: Management of ureteral calculi". Canadian Urological Association Journal. 9 (11-12): E837–E851. doi:10.5489/cuaj.3483. ISSN 1911-6470. PMC 4707902. PMID 26788233.
  4. Teece, DD (2006). "Intravenous NSAID's in the management of renal colic: Article by Debasis Das". Emergency Medicine Journal. 23 (3): 224–225. doi:10.1136/emj.2005.034330. PMC 2464448. PMID 16498166.
  5. Holdgate, A; Pollock, T (18 April 2005). "Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) versus opioids for acute renal colic". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2): CD004137. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004137.pub3. PMID 15846699.
  6. Lipkin, Michael; Shah, Ojas (2006-01-01). "The Use of Alpha-Blockers for the Treatment of Nephrolithiasis". Reviews in Urology. 8 (Suppl 4): S35–S42. ISSN 1523-6161. PMC 1765041. PMID 17216000.
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