Kidney Stone Test: 4 Types & What To Expect 2023

Reviewed by Dr. Maya Frankfurt, PhD

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kidney stone test
Kidney stones are a painful condition that affect many adults. Photo: Shutterstock

If you have ever experienced the agony of kidney stones, you understand how painful they can be. However, you may not recognize the symptoms if you haven’t encountered them before. Kidney stone symptoms[1] include abdominal and back pain, as well as blood in the urine.

In order to ensure that you are suffering from kidney stones,an accurate diagnosis requires specialized testing by a medical professional. Some individuals may not experience any symptoms, while others may have atypical signs such as vague abdominal pain, sudden flank pain, nausea, urinary urgency or frequency, difficulties urinating, or discomfort in the penile or testicular areas in males.

Kidney Stone Tests

A kidney stone test is essential for the diagnosis and management of kidney problems. These tests are used to:

  • Find the cause of severe pain in the abdomen or back.
  • Check for urinary tract infections.
  • Perform urinary stone analysis.
  • Create a plan to prevent stones in the future.

There are many different types of tests for kidney stones. These include: 

  • Assessment of symptoms and medical history.
  • Laboratory testing (metabolic panel and urinalysis).
  • Ultrasound of the kidneys and bladder.
  • Noncontrast CT abdomen and pelvis.
  • MRI abdomen and pelvis.
  • Intravenous pyelography (IVP).
  • Digital tomosynthesis.

The Role Of Kidney Stone Tests

kidney stone test
Correct diagnosis of kidney stones leads to prompt treatment. Photo: Shutterstock


Before a healthcare professional can treat a problem, they have to know exactly what they are dealing with. Many health conditions, such as pyelonephritis or ovarian torsion, can look like a kidney stone.[2] Therefore, your doctor will need to obtain your health history as well as a list of symptoms to help them make the correct diagnosis.

Flank pain caused by kidney stones[3] can resemble symptoms of other conditions. It is crucial to recognize that this pain may also indicate various other underlying issues. By determining the precise cause of your pain, you can receive the necessary care to address the root problem effectively.

Severity Evaluation

The best way to get rid of kidney stones depends on the severity and size of the stone. Very large stones may have to be removed surgically, while smaller stones can be passed with the help of pain medication and drinking a great deal of water.

Treatment Selection 

Your healthcare provider must collect as much  information about the size, structure, and location of your stones as possible in order to make a treatment plan. Small stones can be managed with pain medication as well as treatment to prevent nausea and vomiting.

If you have large stones, your doctor may break up the stones into smaller pieces using sound waves called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL).[3] This procedure is non-invasive and can be  done in a doctor’s office or the emergency room.

Some people prefer to choose natural remedies such as drinking apple cider vinegar for kidney stones. If you can’t tolerate the taste of plain apple cider vinegar, you can try some of the best apple cider vinegar gummies.

Follow Up Care 

Even after you pass your kidney stone, you may still have lingering pain. You can talk to your medical provider about how long kidney stone pain lasts.

If you continue to have difficulty urinating, severe pain, cloudy urine, or blood in your urine after you pass your stone, your doctor may order blood tests to look for an infection or more imaging tests to look for possible blockages in the urinary system.

Kidney Stone Test Types

Physical Exam

The presence of renal colic or flank pain, particularly in patients with a history of stone disease, should raise suspicion of nephrolithiasis.

The first thing that your doctor will do to diagnose kidney stones is perform a physical exam. A healthcare professional may ask you about your medical history, have you describe your symptoms, and do a quick physical assessment before they order an imaging test or blood testing.

Blood Tests

Blood tests are used to check your kidney function and look for problems such as infections or electrolyte imbalances that often lead to developing kidney stones. While a blood test may not be able to tell you whether or not you are currently having ureteral stones, it can give your doctor information about the levels of certain minerals in your body.

If your blood contains too many stone forming minerals such as uric acid or too much parathormone, a hormone that retains calcium, you are at a higher risk of forming more stones.

Urine Tests 

Urine tests can tell your healthcare provider what type of stone you are experiencing. There are four main types of stones.[4]

  • Calcium stones.
  • Uric acid stones.
  • Struvite stones. 
  • Cystine stones.

Researchers recommend that a 24-hour urine test can be used to analyze sodium levels, calcium levels, and perform urine stone analysis. This urine testing can help your health care provider determine exactly what is causing stone formation in your body so as to prevent future kidney stones.

Image Tests 

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states[5] that imaging tests are the most accurate way to diagnose kidney stones.

These tests not only provide an accurate diagnosis but also help identify the underlying causes of kidney stone formation, such as a blocked urethra or a congenital defect.

Imaging tests provide healthcare professionals crucial information to guide appropriate treatment and address the causes of kidney stone formation.

Computerized Tomography (CT)

Computed tomography can give a detailed picture of your kidney and the structures surrounding it. These imaging tests can look for kidney stones as well as tumors, obstructive conditions, congenital anomalies, polycystic kidney disease, abscesses, and accumulation of fluid around the kidneys.


An ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image. Although they do not give as clear of a picture as CT scans and X-ray images, getting an ultrasound is safe for people who need to avoid radiation, such as children and pregnant women.

Abdominal X-Ray

Emergency rooms and most urgent care centers can perform an abdominal X-ray quickly to identify a kidney stone. The downside of this type of imaging test is that it may miss small kidney stones.

When To Take Kidney Stone Tests

If you are having pain and don’t want to go to the hospital, you may wonder how long it takes to pass kidney stones. Small stones may pass in just a few hours on their own, while larger stones may require medical intervention.

If you experience sharp pain in your abdomen or back, blood in your urine, or severe nausea and vomiting, you should get tested for kidney stones.


Kidney stones usually cause severe pain and can lead to problems such as urinary tract infections and blockages. If you think you have kidney stones, you should seek medical care right away.

While blood tests and urine tests can tell you if you are at risk of developing kidney stones, imaging tests are the most reliable way of finding out whether you currently have a stone.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most accurate test to diagnose kidney stones?

The most accurate test for diagnosing kidney stones is a CT scan. CT scans are highly effective in detecting even small stones and can also identify other potential issues. However, it is important to note that CT scans involve radiation and are not recommended for pregnant women due to potential risks.

What causes kidney stones?

People with a family history of kidney stones are more likely to form kidney stones themselves. Dietary habits such as drinking soda or lower fluid intake can also increase your risk.

How does a urine sample help with diagnosing kidney stones?

A urine sample can tell the doctor if you have certain minerals in your urine that can cause kidney stones. Doctors can also use urine samples to diagnose urinary tract infections and high levels of uric acid.

Can kidney stones be treated at home?

If your kidney stones are small enough, they may be able to pass through your urinary tract without medical intervention. However, larger stones will require treatment from a healthcare professional.

How can I prevent calcium stones?

Drinking water regularly is important for preventing kidney stones. If you have frequent kidney stones, your doctor may suggest medication to help reduce the risk.

What are the best ways to use apple cider vinegar for kidney stones?

Goli gummies reviews state that just two servings of these gummies are equivalent to taking a shot of straight apple cider vinegar.

+ 5 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. and, D. (2023). Symptoms & Causes of Kidney Stones. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at:
  2. and, D. (2023). Definition & Facts for Kidney Stones. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: [Accessed 31 Aug. 2023].
  3. Nojaba, L. and Guzman, N. (2023). Nephrolithiasis. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Aug. 2023].
  4. Kelley, J.M. (1990). Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy of urinary calculi. Theory, efficacy, and adverse effects. The Western journal of medicine, [online] 153(1), pp.65–9. Available at:
  5. and, D. (2023). Definition & Facts for Kidney Stones. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at:
  6. and, D. (2023). Diagnosis of Kidney Stones. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at:


Jessica is a registered nurse with a masters degree in research and education. She loves to help people understand how to take charge of their health. She has cared for patients in all stages of life including newborn babies through patients at the end of their life. Jessica currently works in the cardiothoracic ICU managing patients on ECMO. She is also part of a medical transport team and is a new nurse and patient educator. She loves helping people reach their full potential.


Dr. Maya Frankfurt received her Ph.D. in neuroscience and has been teaching and doing research for over 30 years. She has taught neuroscience and physiology to medical students and allied health students. Her research interests are primarily related to understanding how the brain responds to alterations in hormones, drugs, and aging. Of particular importance is the understanding of the mechanisms involved in short- and long-term memory. Although these studies are done in animals the goal is to understand the mechanisms underlying learning and memory in humans and to provide potential directions for therapy in patients with dementia. Related to this, is the attempt to understand potential sex differences and the effects of estrogen in learning and memory because women have a greater incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease than do men. The initial hormone studies led to an interest on the effects of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in plastics that has been shown to disrupt endocrine function, on both memory and brain structure. This research has been published in over 80 papers in peer referred journals.

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