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  • How Can Rollercoasters Help with Kidney Stones?

How Can Rollercoasters Help with Kidney Stones?

Nov 23 2016 Read 2638 Times

Even the smallest of kidney stones can cause excruciating pain as it passes through the urinary tract, with more than 1.6 million Americans sent to emergency rooms every year as a result. Though instead of looking to ER, a team of scientists from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine is maintaining that theme parks could step-up as a surprising cure.

From Space Mountain to California Screamin’, a team of scientists is asserting that the twists, dives and sheer speed of rollercoasters could help small stones dislodge themselves from the maze of tubules that wind through the kidneys. At least this is what two scientists who rose Disney’s World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster 20 times in a row, with replica kidneys in their backpacks are claiming.

Urban legend, or medical breakthrough?

The experiment was inspired when the researchers heard about patients passing kidney stones after riding rollercoasters at Orlando’s theme parks. After one patient passed three stones after just one ride, they couldn’t resist exploring whether or not it was a coincidence, or a medical breakthrough.  

“Three consecutive rides, three stones — that was too much to ignore,” recalls David Wartinger, a kidney specialist who worked on the study with colleague Marc Mitchell.

Scientists use 3D printers to test theory

As neither of the researchers had kidney stones themselves, they used a 3D printer to create a life-size plastic replica mimicking the interior of the human organ. They then injected the model with human urine, and three stones. After gaining permission from park managers, Wartinger and Mitchell began the experiment.

“Luckily, the first person we talked to in an official capacity had just passed a kidney stone,” explains Wartinger. “He told us he would help however we needed.”

Front train thrills vs back train momentum

Interestingly, the scientists found that when riding in the back train of the rollercoaster, 64% of stones in the model kidney passed with ease. The front wasn’t quite as effective, with just a 17% success rate. The research was published in the October Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, with Wartinger and Mitchell now exploring ways to fast-track human trials.

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