Skip to Main Content


Renal calculi are common, affecting ∼1% of the population, and recurrent in more than half of pts. Stone formation begins when urine becomes supersaturated with insoluble components due to (1) low urinary volume, (2) excessive or insufficient excretion of selected compounds, or (3) other factors (e.g., urinary pH) that diminish solubility. Approximately 75% of stones are Ca-based (the majority Ca oxalate; also Ca phosphate and other mixed stones), 15% struvite (magnesium-ammonium-phosphate), 5% uric acid, and 1% cystine, reflecting the metabolic disturbance(s) from which they arise.


Stones in the renal pelvis may be asymptomatic or cause hematuria alone; with passage, obstruction may occur at any site along the collecting system. Obstruction related to the passing of a stone leads to severe pain, often radiating to the groin, sometimes accompanied by intense visceral symptoms (i.e., nausea, vomiting, diaphoresis, light-headedness), hematuria, pyuria, urinary tract infection (UTI), and, rarely, hydronephrosis. In contrast, staghorn calculi, associated with recurrent UTI with urea-splitting organisms (Proteus, Klebsiella, Providencia, Morganella, and others), may be completely asymptomatic, presenting with loss of renal function.


Most stones are composed of Ca oxalate. These may be associated with hypercalciuria and/or hyperoxaluria. Hypercalciuria can be seen in association with a very high-Na diet, loop diuretic therapy, distal (type I) renal tubular acidosis (RTA), sarcoidosis, Cushing’s syndrome, aldosterone excess, or conditions associated with hypercalcemia (e.g., primary hyperparathyroidism, vitamin D excess, milk-alkali syndrome), or it may be idiopathic.

Hyperoxaluria may be seen with intestinal (especially ileal) malabsorption syndromes (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis), due to reduced intestinal secretion of oxalate and/or the binding of intestinal Ca by fatty acids within the bowel lumen, with enhanced absorption of free oxalate and hyperoxaluria. Ca oxalate stones may also form due to (1) a deficiency of urinary citrate, an inhibitor of stone formation that is underexcreted with metabolic acidosis; and (2) hyperuricosuria (see below). Ca phosphate stones are much less common and tend to occur in the setting of an abnormally high urinary pH (7–8), usually in association with a complete or partial distal RTA.

Struvite stones form in the collecting system when infection with urea-splitting organisms is present. Struvite is the most common component of staghorn calculi and obstruction. Risk factors include previous UTI, nonstruvite stone disease, urinary catheters, neurogenic bladder (e.g., with diabetes or multiple sclerosis), and instrumentation.

Uric acid stones develop when the urine is saturated with uric acid in the presence of an acid urine pH; pts typically have underlying metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, often with clinical gout, associated with a relative defect in ammoniagenesis and urine pH that is <5.4 and often <5.0. Pts with myeloproliferative disorders and other causes of secondary hyperuricemia and hyperuricosuria due to increased purine biosynthesis and/or urate production are at risk for stones if ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.