Abdominopelvic ultrasound: A cost-effective way to diagnose solitary kidney

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Urology








child; congenital abnormalities; kidney; kidney diseases; ultrasonography


Purpose: Solitary kidneys are detected on approximately 1 of 1,500 prenatal ultrasounds and during evaluation for other urological complaints. Although renal scintigraphy is currently the gold standard for confirming the diagnosis and ruling out renal ectopia, scintigraphy is associated with radiation exposure, placement of an intravenous line and sedation. We hypothesize that ultrasonography alone is sufficient to detect solitary kidneys and that confirmatory renal scintigraphy is unnecessary. Materials and Methods: We reviewed the records of children with a solitary kidney who underwent ultrasound and nuclear scintigraphy at our institution from 2001 to 2010. Radiological findings were compared to assess the accuracy of ultrasound in diagnosing solitary kidneys. Costs were calculated based on 2011 Medicare global reimbursement. Results: A total of 25 children met the inclusion criteria of undergoing ultrasound and renal scintigraphy (dimercapto-succinic acid or mercaptoacetyltriglycine scan). The majority of cases were male (16, 64%) and left sided (17, 68%). Median age was 9 days (range 1 day to 11.6 years) at first ultrasound and 4.4 months (3 weeks to 12 years) at first renal scintigraphy. In 24 patients ultrasound correctly diagnosed a solitary kidney as confirmed by nuclear scan. In 1 patient ultrasound suggested a pelvic kidney but repeat ultrasound was negative, as was dimercapto-succinic acid scan. The diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound was 96%. Medicare reimbursement for dimercapto-succinic acid scan (CPT 78700) is $460 to $720 ($222 plus $240 for radiotracer plus $260 for anesthesia, if used). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that ultrasonography alone is sufficient to make the diagnosis of solitary kidney. Omitting routine renal scintigraphy saves approximately $460 to $720 per case, and avoids radiation and discomfort without sacrificing diagnostic accuracy. © 2012 American Urological Association Education and Research, Inc.

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