Is Ultrasound Sufficient for Diagnosing Urolithiasis in the Pediatric Patient?
Palmer JS, Donaher ER, O’Riordan MA, et al. Diagnosis of Pediatric Urolithiasis: Role of ultrasound and computerized tomography. J Urol. 2005;174:1413-1416.
Review by Ann Mattison, RN, CPNP
Pediatric urolithiasis is uncommon and may present without the classic symptoms of renal colic, making diagnosis of pediatric urolithiasis problematic. Previously published data has revealed that unenhanced spiral CT is the gold standard in diagnosing urinary tract calculi in adults. However, CT carries the risk of exposure to ionizing radiation, which can be a significant issue in children.
Due to the low prevalence of urolithiasis in addition to concerns about radiation exposure, many primary care providers choose ultrasound as the initial radiographic study for children with symptoms that can be associated with urolithiasis, such as flank pain, abdominal pain, and gross hematuria. But the accuracy of ultrasound in detecting pediatric urolithiasis has not been well studied.
A retrospective chart review was performed in all patients 0-18 evaluated as outpatients and inpatients at the study institution. Subjects were identified by ICD-9 codes and billing records. The study showed the accuracy of ultrasounds performed was variable and dependent on the location of the calculi. In contrast, CT was highly accurate regardless of calculi location.
The study concluded that ultrasound may still be the appropriate initial study for the majority of children presenting with symptoms suggestive of urolithiasis; however, a negative ultrasound should not be considered sufficient to rule out the diagnosis of urolithiasis in pediatric patients. The authors recommended the patient with persistent symptoms and negative ultrasound undergo unenhanced CT. The retrospective design of this study limits application of these results; however, the study does highlight the need for a heightened index of suspicion for the diagnosis as well as the need for further prospective studies describing the most safe and efficient method for confirming the diagnosis. TH