A statistical tool may be able to predict your next kidney stone.

In a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers looked at data from kidney stone patients between 1984 and 2017 to determine which characteristics were associated with recurring stones.

Kidney stones are a common condition in which mineral deposits form inside the kidneys. They can then move out of the kidneys and down the urinary tract, causing pain. Many people who suffer from one kidney stone find others later.

The risk of recurrence is always variable, but a family history of stones, a previous suspected stone or, if the patient gets a CT scan, other visible stones in the results, will probably mean higher odds of the problem returning, said Dr. John Lieske.

"Stones are kind of an unpredictable thing," Lieske said. "Some people have them often — others not so much."

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Enter the ROKS.

The Recurrence of Kidney Stones toolon QXMD asks users to enter their age, sex, family history, and several symptoms from their most recent kidney stone. Then it calculates the risk of another stone within two, five, and 10 years, based on data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project.

The recurrence risk for the average first-time kidney stone patient is 11 percent at two years, 20 percent after five years, and 31 percent in 10 years, but more severe symptoms, a family history of stones, or previous ones all drive up that risk.

Confused by the clinical terminology when looking at the ROKS? There’s a reason for it.

Lieske sees the tool as one doctors can go over with their patients to assess the relative benefits and drawbacks of beginning medication or a diet to avoid future kidney stones.

The diuretics and potassium citrate commonly taken to avoid kidney stones are low-risk, but all drugs have some possibility of unpleasant side effects, Lieske said — in this case, gastrointestinal discomfort. People in the 30-40 age range also tend not to be gung-ho about going on medication long-term. So if that prescription can be avoided, maybe it should be.

If, for example, a patient’s ROKS assessment says they have a 10 percent chance of recurrence within five years, the patient and doctor may agree that nothing needs to be done. But if that risk is 50 percent within five years, it may be worth looking at the medical options.

The ROKS was developed using data from Olmsted County, which means it may not be as useful for patients in other parts of the country.

Kaiser in California has begun another study to see whether the climate (there’s some evidence that hotter temperatures lead to more stones), as well as different habits, diets, and ethnic makeup in California will significantly change the findings, Lieske said.