Fluids and diuretics for treating acute ureteric colic

Kidney stones are most commonly formed from masses of crystals and protein. Movement of stones from the kidney through the urinary tract is a common cause of urinary tract obstruction in adults and can cause severe pain (colic). This review aimed to determine if increased fluids and diuretics or both could hasten the passage of stones and improve symptoms. Neither our initial review nor this subsequent update identified sufficient evidence to enable conclusions to be determined about the safety and effectiveness of increasing fluids or diuretics or both to treat people with acute ureteric colic. More and larger randomised controlled studies are required.

Authors' conclusions: 

We found no reliable evidence in the literature to support the use of diuretics and high volume fluid therapy for people with acute ureteric colic. However, given the potential positive therapeutic impact of fluids and diuretics to facilitate stone passage, the capacity of these interventions warrants further investigation to determine safety and efficacy profiles.

Read the full abstract...

Acute ureteric colic is commonly associated with severe and debilitating pain. Theoretically, increasing fluid flow through the affected kidney might expedite stone passage, thereby improving symptoms more quickly. The efficacy and safety of interventions such as high volume intravenous (IV) or oral fluids and diuretics aimed at expediting ureteric stone passage is, however, uncertain.


To look at the benefits and harms of diuretics and high volume (above maintenance) IV or oral fluid therapy for treating adult patients presenting with uncomplicated acute ureteric colic.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Renal Group's specialised register (3 January 2012). Previously we searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE (from 1966), EMBASE (from 1980) and handsearched reference lists of nephrology and urology textbooks, review articles, relevant studies, and abstracts from nephrology scientific meetings.

Selection criteria: 

All randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs (including the first period of randomised cross-over studies) looking at diuretics or high volume IV or oral fluids for treating uncomplicated acute ureteric colic in adult patients presenting to the emergency department for the first time during that episode were included.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently assessed study quality and extracted data. Statistical analyses were performed using the random-effects model for multiple studies of the same outcomes, otherwise the fixed-effect model was used. Results were expressed as risk ratios (RR) for dichotomous outcomes or as mean differences (MD) for continuous data with 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Main results: 

Two studies (enrolling 118 participants) examined the association between intense hydration and ureteric colic outcomes. There was no significant difference in pain at six hours (1 study, 60 participants: RR 1.06, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.57), surgical stone removal (1 study, 60 participants: RR 1.20, 95% CI 0.41 to 3.51) or manipulation by cystoscopy (1 study, 60 participants: RR 0.67, 95% CI 0.21 to 2.13) when no fluids over six hours was compared to three litres IV fluids administered over a six hour period. There was no difference in stone clearance (1 study 43 participants: RR 1.38, 95% CI 0.50 to 3.84), hourly pain score or patients' narcotic requirements (P > 0.05 for all comparisons) when forced IV hydration of two litres over four hours was compared with minimal IV hydration at 20 mL/hour.

One study did not provide any details which would have allowed us to assess any of the risk of bias items (selection, detection, performance, attrition or reporting bias). The second study did not report the method of randomisation or allocation (selection bias - unclear), they reported that the patients were blinded to therapy (low risk of bias), analgesics were administered according to predetermined pain score criteria (low risk), and assessment of stone passage was unlikely to have been biased by knowledge of group assignment (low risk). However the second study also reported a high percentage of participants excluded post randomisation (26%; high risk of bias). We were unable to assess or ascertain any of the other risk of bias items.