Kidney Stone Rx: Hop on a Thrill Ride


Is he having fun on a roller coaster, passing a kidney stone or both? Christopher Murray/EyeEm/Getty Images
Is he having fun on a roller coaster, passing a kidney stone or both? Christopher Murray/EyeEm/Getty Images

For many of us, having some sort of ill-health episode means sitting on the couch, feeling sorry for ourselves. But what if getting sick meant we got to experience the joy of visiting Disney World? Suddenly, being sick doesn't mean the same thing. Why, being sick is a delight!

Perhaps a tangent, because what we're talking about isn't necessarily a free trip to the Mouse House if you get appendicitis. But recently researchers did find that riding a roller coaster actually resulted in the passage of kidney stones, so imagining a "Theme Park Treatment" may be just around the corner. Or up an extremely steep hill followed by a sudden drop, as the case may be.  

Researchers initiated the study after patients reported to their doctors that after a few rides on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Disney World, their kidney stones had passed. Interesting anecdotal evidence, for sure, but how to test it? Instead of putting people on a roller coaster and expectantly watching them pee after, they decided it would be more effective to use a 3-D model of a kidney with multiple kidney stones, or renal calculi. (That would help, for instance, study how the various positions of a stone might affect the efficacy.) The fun-loving scientists took the model on 20 rides.

While they were interested in stone position, what they didn't plan for was seating position on the coaster. Just like everyone else, the 3-D model didn't get to choose its seat. Sometimes it was in front. Sometimes in the back. And that, it turns out, made a huge difference in the experiment. Regardless of size or position of the stone, it passed a whopping 64 percent of the time if the model was in the rear of the coaster. In the front of the coaster, it passed just 17 percent of the time.

Since it's just a preliminary study — albeit a super fun one — the researchers can't say exactly why this it happens. But in the meantime, they do point out that it could be a viable option to try, since many otherwise healthy Americans live near a roller coaster or two.