Background: Ureteric (renal) colic is a common, painful condition encountered in the Emergency Department (ED). Sustained contraction of smooth muscle in the ureter as a kidney stone passes the length of the ureter leads to pain. The majority of stones will pass spontaneously (i.e. without urologic intervention). For over a decade, calcium channel blockers (i.e. nifedipine) and, more commonly, alpha adrenoreceptor antagonists (i.e. tamsulosin) have been employed in the treatment of ureteric colic for their potential ability to increase stone passage, reduce pain medication use and reduce urologic interventions. These interventions were mostly based on poor methodologic studies and meta-analyses of these flawed studies.
Over the past 3-4 years, a small number of higher-quality RCTs have been published (Ferre 2009, Pickard 2015, Furyk 2016). These studies have demonstrated a lack of benefit for routine use of alpha blockers. However, secondary outcomes suggest a possible benefit in larger stones (> 6 mm). In spite of recent multiple studies, the use of alpha blockers remains an area of active debate. Read more →