Research by the University of Michigan Health System finds that treating urinary stone disease with a calcium-channel blocker or an alpha blocker has many benefits and can even allow patients to pass urinary stones thus avoiding surgery. In the US, the disease affects 13 percent of men and 7 percent of women. Usually it is treated by minimally invasive surgery, but research suggests that medicines might help.
Calcium-channel blockers and alpha blockers are used commonly for management of high blood pressure and enlarged prostates. In this study, published in the Sept. 30 issue of the Lancet, researchers identified and analyzed numerous studies and found that both medications were a successful alternative for treatment of an acute urinary stone episode.
''Surgery is still a necessary treatment for many patients with urinary stones,'' says senior author Brent K. Hollenbeck, M.D., assistant professor of urology at the U-M Medical School and Comprehensive Cancer Center. ''However, for many people, a more conservative approach beginning with a trial of a calcium-channel blocker or an alpha blocker is proving to be efficacious.''
Researchers looked at articles about this issue and ultimately analyzed nine trials that included 693 patients. The trials examined the use of calcium-channel blockers or alpha blockers to assist with the passage of urinary stones. In all, they found that patients treated with one of the medications had a 65 percent greater chance of passing the stones spontaneously than patients not given these drugs.
''This suggests that treatment with these medications is an important first step for patients with an acute urinary stone episode,'' says lead author John M. Hollingsworth, M.D., fifth-year surgery resident with the Department of Urology at the U-M Medical School.
Hollingsworth also notes that the cost of medical treatment for urinary stones would be far lower than with surgery. Nearly 2 million outpatient visits are made annually by patients with urinary stones, with costs for inpatient and outpatient claims totaling $2.1 billion.