Kidney Stones? It’s Time to Rethink Those Meds

Despite being recommended for ureteral stone expulsion, tamsulosin or nifedipine is no more effective than placebo.

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Do not prescribe tamsulosin or nifedipine for stone expulsion in patients with ureteral stones that are ≤ 10 mm.1

Strength of recommendation
Based on a high-quality randomized controlled trial (RCT).1

Bob Z, age 48, presents to the emergency department (ED) with unspecified groin pain. CT of the kidney, ureter, and bladder (CT KUB) finds evidence of a single ureteral stone measuring 8 mm. He’s prescribed medication for the pain and discharged. The day after his ED visit, he comes to your office to discuss further treatment options. Should you prescribe tamsulosin or nifedipine to help him pass the stone?

The most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found kidney stones affect 8.8% of the population.2 Outpatient therapy is indicated for patients with ureteric colic secondary to stones ≤ 10 mm who do not have uncontrolled pain, impaired kidney function, or severe infection. Routine out­patient care includes oral hydration, antiemetics, and pain medications.

Medical expulsive therapy (MET) is also used to facilitate stone passage. MET is increasingly becoming part of routine care; use of MET in kidney stone patients in the United States has grown from 14% in 2009 to 64% in 2012.3,4

The joint European Association of Urology/American Urological Association Nephrolithiasis Guideline Panel supports the use of MET.5 Meta-analyses of multiple RCTs suggest that an α-blocker (tamsulosin) or a calcium channel blocker (nifedipine) can reduce pain and lead to quicker stone passage and a higher rate of eventual stone passage when compared to placebo or observation.6,7 However, these reviews included small, heterogeneous studies with a high or unclear risk for bias.

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