Does drinking a lot of water help a stone pass faster?

If you’re in the unfortunate position of trying to pass a kidney stone, you’d probably want to speed up the process along as much as possible. One common strategy used by patients and occasionally suggested by physicians is to drink tons of water in order to try to “flush” out the stone rapidly.

Well, does this actually work? A recent review by the Cochrane Collaboration, a group that publishes information on the effectiveness of healthcare treatments, looked at whether aggressively increasing your fluid intake during a stone episode is effective.  You can read their review here: “Fluids and diuretics for acute ureteric colic

For those of you who just want the short answer: Their review found that aggressive fluid hydration during a kidney stone episode did not help reduce pain or improve the chances of successful stone passage.

For those who want a little more detail, we’ve summarized the two articles used in their review below:

Edna and coworkers published a study on this topic back in 1983. In their study, 60 patients presenting to a hospital in Norway with a kidney stone attack were either given no fluid for 6 hours or 3 liters of intravenous fluid over 6 hours (a liter is about 34 oz). The amount of pain experienced and average duration of pain experienced was compared between the two groups and no differences were seen. The two groups also did not differ in how often surgery was required (11 times in the fluid group and 10 times in the no fluid group).

In a study by Springhart and colleagues published in 2006, forty-three patients presenting to an emergency room in the United States with a kidney stone were either given vigorous hydration or minimal hydration to see if those given the vigorous hydration would do better. Those given “vigorous” hydration received 2000 ml of intravenous fluid over 2 hours while those given minimal hydration received only 20 ml of intravenous fluid an hour. Patients were then observed for four hours in the hospital.  Pain scores, amount of pain medications used, and chances of subsequent successful stone passage were compared. At the end of the study there were no significant differences between the two groups for any measure: pain scores, amount of pain medication, or success at stone passage.

Together, these results suggested that aggressively increasing your hydration during an acute stone episode is unfortunately not likely to help you pass your stone or reduce the pain you experience. However, drinking more fluids routinely as a kidneystoner is an important and effective strategy for stone prevention.

In contrast to these ineffective results involving fluid hydration during a stone episode, there is growing evidence that medications, on the other hand, can help during an acute stone episode. The most commonly used class of medications, known as alpha blockers, have been shown to reduce the pain experience during a stone episode, shorten the time to stone passage, and increase the chance of stone passage.

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About Dr. Mike Nguyen

Mike M Nguyen, MD, MPH, is a urologist and an Associate Professor of Clinical Urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, CA. He specializes in the treatment of kidney stones with both surgery and dietary prevention and the in the treatment of kidney and prostate cancer using the latest robotic surgical approaches. He sees patients at clinics located in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and La Canada, CA. He is the founder of the website.
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One Response to Does drinking a lot of water help a stone pass faster?

  1. Pedro says:

    Hi. I currently have one stone (7mm by 4mm) stuck in the abdominal-pelvic transtition, right near the iliac blood vessels. I experienced very light pain one week ago in the lowe abdomen but it has since disappeared. My physician says I should not drink many liquids because he says it won’t help. But my question is, does drinking many liquids cause any possible injury to the kidney? I still urinate easily, have no fever and no blood in the urine (this is my 4th experience, the least painful of all, but with the largest stone so far). I really want to know whether I can take a chance on the flooding of the system or not. Will it cause a colic? But won’t the colic make the stone move forward? Thank you

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