Is computed tomography-defined obstruction a predictor of urological intervention in emergency department patients presenting with renal colic?

Peter Alexander Massaro, Avinash Kanji, Paul Atkinson, Ryan Pawsey, Tom Whelan


Introduction: Our objective was to determine whether unilateral calculus-induced ureteric obstruction on computed tomography (CT) was independently associated with the need for urological intervention and 30-day return to the emergency department (ED).

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients with symptomatic urinary calculi diagnosed by unenhanced helical CT. Stepwise regression analysis was used to determine the predictors of urological intervention and 30-day return to the ED. Potential predictors assessed included: patient demographics, calculus size, calculus location, degree of obstruction, analgesic doses, signs and symptoms of infection, serum creatinine, cumulative intravenous fluid administered, and the prescription of medical expulsive therapy.

Results: Of 195 patients, 81 (41.5%) underwent urological intervention. The size of the calculus, its location, and the cumulative opioid dose were all independent predictors for urological intervention. Every 1 mm increase in calculus size increased the likelihood of intervention 2.2 times (odds ratio [OR] 2.17; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.67‒2.85). Proximal stones were 4.7 times more likely to require intervention than distal calculi (OR 0.21; 95% CI 0.09‒0.49). Every 10 mg increase in morphine was associated with a 30% increase in the odds of intervention (OR 1.30; 95% CI 1.07‒1.58). Degree of obstruction was not associated with the need for urological intervention. Finally, none of the variables were predictors for 30-day return to the ED.

Conclusions: Although stone size, proximal location, and severe pain, as indicated by higher opioid doses, were associated with the need for intervention, the degree of obstruction did not influence the management of patients with CT-defined urinary calculi.

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