Got Kidney Stones? It Might Be Time to Travel to Disney

Photo by Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com / Shutterstock.com

In case you needed an excuse to visit an amusement park, riding roller coasters could help you pass a kidney stone.

Sitting in the back of a roller coaster is especially helpful, resulting in kidney stone passage 63.9 percent of the time overall, according to recent research published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA).

Sitting in the front resulted in passage 16.7 percent of the time overall.

The study authors originally suspected a possible link between riding a roller coaster and passing a kidney stone. Over several years, “a notable number” of their patients had reported passing a kidney stone after riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

One patient reported passing a kidney stone after each of three consecutive rides on that roller coaster.

So the researchers constructed a “patient surrogate” — a model of a kidney that they filled with real stones and real urine — and headed to Disney.

To take the kidney model on Thunder Mountain, they situated it in an anatomically correct position in a padded backpack. On the ride, they held that backpack against the back of the seat at kidney height between the two researchers.

Thunder Mountain subjected the kidney model to sharp turns and quick drops during the ride, which lasted two minutes and 30 seconds. The roller coaster does not go upside down, though, and has a maximum speed of 35 mph.

Co-author David Wartinger, a professor emeritus in the Department of Osteopathic Surgical Specialties at Michigan State University, tells the journal that the ideal roller coaster for facilitating kidney stone passage subjects riders to sharp turns and quick drops but does not invert riders or exceed 40 mph.

More than 300,000 Americans seek emergency care for kidney stones each year, and 1 in 10 Americans has had a kidney stone, Wartinger notes.

So, he concludes, roller coaster riding may offer patients an alternative to medication, dietary restrictions and surgery.

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