Passing a kidney stone can be incredibly painful. Kidney stones are hard, crystal-like masses that typically cause spasms of pain in the lower back, side and groin and blood in the urine. Some kidney stones will pass on their own and some require removal by a doctor. The timing of passage and the likelihood of a stone passing on its own depend on its size and location.
Time for Passing a Stone
Smaller stones and those farther along the urinary tract -- closer to the bladder than to the kidneys -- are more likely to pass on their own and tend to pass more rapidly. According to the American Urological Association, the time to pass stones located in ureters -- tubes leading from the kidneys to the bladder -- is an average of 8 days for stones less than 2 mm, 12 days for stones between 2 and 4 mm and 22 days for stones between 4 and 6 mm 2. Most kidney stones that pass on their own do so by 40 days. Medications called antispasmodics may be prescribed to help a stone pass. They relax the ureters, which can increase the likelihood of passing a stone and speed up passage by 5 to 7 days, according to an article in the December 2011 issue of the “American Family Physician. 3”
When a Stone Requires Removal
Common Excretory System Diseases
Waiting for a kidney stone to pass is not appropriate for everyone. According to the American Urological Association, stone removal may be required if a stone does not pass on its own within 2 months, or if certain complications arise while waiting to pass the stone 2. These complications include decreased kidney function, ureter blockage causing a kidney infection or uncontrolled nausea, vomiting or pain.
- Waiting for a kidney stone to pass is not appropriate for everyone.
- According to the American Urological Association, stone removal may be required if a stone does not pass on its own within 2 months, or if certain complications arise while waiting to pass the stone 2.
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- Journal of Urology: Time to Stone Passage for Observed Ureteral Calculi: A Guide for Patient Education
- American Urological Association: Kidney Stones
- American Family Physician: Treatment and Prevention of Kidney Stones: An Update
- Journal of Urology: 2007 Guideline for the Management of Ureteral Calculi
- National Institutes of Health. Eating, Diet & Nutrition for Kidney Stones. Updated May 2017.
- Cereda M, Kennedy S. Cereda M, Kennedy S Cereda, Maurizio, and Sean Kennedy.Chapter 61. Anesthetic Considerations for Genitourinary and Renal Surgery. In: Longnecker DE, Brown DL, Newman MF, Zapol WM. Longnecker D.E., Brown D.L., Newman M.F., Zapol W.M. Eds. David E. Longnecker, et al., eds. Anesthesiology, 2e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2012.
- Hwang JQ, Poffenberger C. Hwang J.Q., Poffenberger C Hwang, James Q., and Cori McClure Poffenberger.Chapter 10. Renal and Urinary System Ultrasound. In: Carmody KA, Moore CL, Feller-Kopman D. Carmody K.A., Moore C.L., Feller-Kopman D Eds. Kristin A. Carmody, et al., eds. Handbook of Critical Care and Emergency Ultrasound. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2011.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & Causes of Kidney Stones. Updated May 2017.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Definition & Facts for Kidney Stones. Updated May 2017.
- Brikowski TH, Lotan Y, Pearle MS. Climate-related increase in the prevalence of urolithiasis in the United States. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105(28):9841–9846. doi:10.1073/pnas.0709652105
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for Kidney Stones. Updated May 2017.
- National Kidney Foundation. 6 Easy Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones.
Colleen Doherty has been a medical writer since 2012. Her work has appeared in national online publications. Doherty graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. She received a medical degree and completed her residency program at the University of Chicago. She is board-certified in internal medicine.