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Nephrolithiasis, or kidney stone disease, is a common, painful, and costly condition. Each year, billions of dollars are spent on nephrolithiasis-­related activity, with the majority of expenditures on surgical treatment of existing stones. While a stone may form due to crystallization of lithogenic factors in the upper urinary tract, it can subsequently move into the ureter and cause renal colic. Although nephrolithiasis is rarely fatal, patients who have had renal colic report that it is the worst pain they have ever experienced. The evidence on which to base clinical recommendations is not as strong as desired; nonetheless, most experts agree that the recurrence of most, if not all, types of stones can be prevented with careful evaluation and targeted recommendations. Preventive treatment may be lifelong; therefore, an in-depth understanding of this condition must inform the implementation of tailored interventions that are most appropriate for and acceptable to the patient.

There are various types of kidney stones. It is clinically important to identify the stone type, which informs prognosis and selection of the optimal preventive regimen. Calcium oxalate stones are most common (~75%); next, in order, are calcium phosphate (~15%), uric acid (~8%), struvite (~1%), and cystine (<1%) stones. Many stones are a mixture of crystal types (e.g., calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate) and also contain protein in the stone matrix. Rarely, stones are composed of medications, such as acyclovir, indinavir, and triamterene.

Infectious stones, if not appropriately treated, can have devastating consequences and lead to end-stage renal disease. Consideration should be given to teaching practitioners strategies to prevent stone recurrence and its related morbidity.


Image not available. Nephrolithiasis is a global disease. Data suggest an increasing prevalence, likely due to Westernization of lifestyle habits (e.g., dietary changes, increasing body mass index). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data for 2007–2010 indicate that up to 19% of men and 9% of women will develop at least one stone during their lifetime. The prevalence is ~50% lower among black individuals than among whites. The incidence of nephrolithiasis (i.e., the rate at which previously unaffected individuals develop their first stone) also varies by age, sex, and race. Among white men, the peak annual incidence is ~3.5 cases/1000 at age 40 and declines to ~2 cases/1000 by age 70. Among white women in their thirties, the annual incidence is ~2.5 cases/1000; the figure decreases to ~1.5/1000 at age 50 and beyond. In addition to the medical costs associated with nephrolithiasis, this condition also has a substantial economic impact, as those affected are often of working age. Once an individual has had a stone, the prevention of a recurrence is essential. Published recurrence rates vary by the definitions and diagnostic methods used. Some reports have relied on symptomatic events, while others have been based on imaging. Most experts agree that radiographic evidence of a second stone should be considered to represent a recurrence, even if the stone has not yet caused symptoms.


Nephrolithiasis is a systemic disorder. Several conditions predispose to stone formation, including gastrointestinal malabsorption (e.g., Crohn’s disease, gastric bypass ...

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