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The benefits of utilizing a computed tomography (CT) scan for kidney stones are numerous. A CT scan is relatively quick, it is highly accurate, and it can locate hard-to-detect kidney stones as small as an eighth of an inch (3 mm). A CT scan for kidney stones also can reduce the need for separate blood tests to aid in the diagnosis of kidney stones, so it can hasten diagnosis and treatment.
A CT scan is a type of medical test uses X-rays to study the body's internal structures and organs. A spiral CT scan is the diagnostic test of choice when a CT scan for kidney stones is necessary. This type of scan encircles the body to obtain a complete view of the kidneys and surrounding organs.
Physicians rely on the spiral CT scan for kidney stones because of its high degree of accuracy. These scans can detect elusive stones using images of thin sections, taken from various angles. These images can assist in determining the size, location and type of stone, thus assisting in diagnosis and treatment.
The use of a spiral CT scan for kidney stones has additional benefits, including eliminating the use of contrast material to obtain images in the body. Contrast material is a dye that is necessary when used in conjunction with some CT scans to enhance the images. Occasionally, contrast dye can cause an allergic reaction in some individuals.
Stones that form in the kidneys begin as small crystals, created from mineral deposits. Small stones generally are passed during urination, but larger ones can become lodged, causing pain and reduced urine flow. These larger stones can become trapped in the ureters, which are the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Besides pain and urine obstruction, stones can cause urinary tract infections and kidney damage. Utilizing a CT scan for kidney stones can also help to determine where there is any damage to the organs of the urinary tract.
Risk factors for kidney stones include dehydration, high doses of vitamins C and D and certain dietary preferences. It is recommended that individuals drink at least eight 8-ounce (0.24-liter) glasses of water daily and consume only the recommended daily doses of vitamins C and D. Additionally, health experts also caution that diets high in protein, sodium and oxalate-rich foods increase the risk of kidney stones. Oxalate is a compound found in various foods and beverages, including coffee, wheat bran, chocolate and dark green vegetables such as spinach. Additional risk factors include weight gain, certain medications, family history, frequent urinary tract infections and a variety of diseases.