Kidney stone pain (renal colic)

This information is for people who have been in the emergency department (A&E) for pain from kidney stones (renal colic).

Kidney stones are hard objects made from chemicals in your urine (pee) that sometimes form crystals. With time, these crystals can build up and make a hard stone-like lump.

You can get kidney stones in 1 or both kidneys. They can become stuck in the tube that connects your kidneys to the bladder (the ureter). When a stone blocks the ureter, it can cause severe pain called renal colic.

Symptoms of kidney stones

Symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • aching in the side of your tummy (abdomen)
  • severe pain as the stone gets stuck in the ureter (this pain can spread down into your tummy or groin)
  • blood in your pee
  • needing to pee more often

Tests for kidney stones

Tests that we might do to diagnose kidney stones include:

  • a blood test to check if your kidneys work properly and if you have an infection
  • a urine test to check for any blood or infection
  • a CT scan or ultrasound scan to check for kidney stones

Treatment for kidney stones

Most stones come out in your pee without any medical help. This usually happens within 4 weeks.

If your pain is controlled and you do not have a temperature, you can go home with painkillers. You can use these if needed.

You need to sieve or collect your pee to check for stones. To do this, you pee into a strainer (funnel with a fine mesh on the bottom) or glass jar. This is important because it might reduce the need for more scans. 

If a stone does not pass

If a stone does not pass on its own, we will recommend treatment.

The urology stone team at Guy’s Hospital contacts you and makes a telephone appointment for you with the colic clinic. When you have this appointment depends on the size and place of your stone.

Your doctor should be able to give you a clinic date when you leave the emergency department.

Return to the emergency department (A&E) if:

  • you cannot pee
  • your pain has come back and painkillers do not help
  • you are being sick (vomiting)
  • you have signs of an infection, such as a high temperature (fever), burning when you pee and feeling tired or unwell

Useful information

The British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS) has reliable information about kidneys stones, their treatment, and how to prevent them with fluid and diet.

Resource number: 5173/VER2
Last reviewed: December 2021
Next review: May 2024

Contact us

If you need to change or cancel your urology appointment, please contact the urology team at Guy’s Hospital.

Phone: 020 7188 2443

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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