Scientists discover riding roller coasters can help pass kidney stones

Upon hearing several of his patients passed their kidney stones after riding a Disney World roller coaster, Michigan State University urologist David Wartinger had to check it out for himself.

The result of his investigation is a new paper published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association that says the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster could actually increase the odds of a stone being passed.

In the study, Wartinger and his team used a verified, artificial 3D simulation of a kidney with three actual kidney stones placed into it. The replica, in a backpack, was taken on the roller coaster 20 times.

Interesting results from an Unconventional Study

Initial outcomes confirmed reports from Wartinger’s patients– although the results were based on the artificial kidney brought on the ride.

In the pilot study, sitting in the last car of the roller coaster showed about a 64 percent passage rate, while sitting in the first few cars only had a 16 percent success rate,” Wartinger said in a news release.

The expansion on initial findings involved riding the same roller coaster with numerous kidney models coupled to the scientists. They found even better outcomes in the back of the coaster, with the stones passing almost 70 percent of the time. Furthermore, both reports showed a 100 percent passage rate if the stones were situated in the upper area of the kidney.

“In all, we used 174 kidney stones of varying shapes, sizes, and weights to see if each model worked on the same ride and on two other roller coasters,” Wartinger said. “Big Thunder Mountain was the only one that worked. We tried Space Mountain and Aerosmith’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and both failed.”

The MSU researcher added that other rides are too rapid and thrash about too much with a G-force that holds the stone in the kidney, not allowing it to pass.

“The ideal coaster is rough and quick with some twists and turns, but no upside down or inverted movements,” he said.

Lithotripsy is a common treatment for kidney stones that uses ultrasonic waves to break up stones that are too big to pass. Wartinger said the treatment is typically used in instances where the kidney stone is bigger than 5 millimeters.

“The problem though is lithotripsy can leave remnants in the kidney which can result in another stone,” Wartinger said. “The best way to potentially eliminate this from happening is to try going on a roller coaster after a treatment when the remnants are still small.”

He added patients can even try taking a coaster ride annually as maintenance, decreasing the odds of potential issues and reducing health care expenses.


Image credit: Michigan State University