Information for Consumers - Renal Colic

This article tells you about renal colic and how it is diagnosed, including what imaging tests you may need to have.

What is renal colic?

Renal colic is pain caused by stones in your kidney, renal pelvis or ureter (the tube that takes urine from the kidney to the bladder). The stones start off as a tiny speck of material in the kidney. They are usually flushed out of the kidney but can stay in there for years and may grow bigger. The pain is caused when your body tries to get rid of the stone(s) through the ureter.

Symptoms of Renal colic are:

  • Pain - starts suddenly, is usually severe and is usually in your side or back
  • Nausea and vomiting - sometimes
  • Small amount of blood in your urine - may not be able to see this


You would normally need a CT scan for diagnosis. The CT scan can be done using a low dose of radiation. Sometimes your doctor may request an x-ray, ultrasound or intravenous pyelogram (IVP).


A radiology doctor will look at your scan(s) and write a report for your doctor.

Further information

For more detailed information, please access InsideRadiology at:

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A guide to gathering information that you may need for making informed decisions is published by the Consumers' Health Council of Australia at:

If you would like to look at other relevant articles, please access the following:

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Or if you have questions or require any further information please contact your doctor or speak to the staff where you are going to have your procedure.

Consumer participation

This information has been reviewed by representatives from the following groups:

  • Aboriginal people
  • People with disabilities
  • Seniors
  • CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse)
  • The Health Consumers' Council


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This article is intended as general information only. The Diagnostic Imaging Pathways team and Radiology Across Borders will not accept any liability arising from its use. The information is kept as up-to-date and accurate as possible. Please be warned that it is always subject to change.


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Date reviewed: July 2017

Date of next review: July 2019