Kidney stone depiction on fictional television: how accurate are they?

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Fictional portrayals of medical conditions on television have been shown to significantly shape understanding and management expectations of the viewing public. Given the high prevalence of kidney stone disease, we aimed to assess the frequency of its portrayal on US television and assess whether its depiction was reflective of the current epidemiology or management of urolithiasis in the US. A detailed search was conducted for English language depictions of kidney stones in fictional television using internet, movie and television database search engines. Television episodes with characters depicting a kidney stone occurrence were independently reviewed by two reviewers and analyzed for genre, initial air date on US television, character age, gender, race and management strategy. Seventeen episodes from 13 different television series portrayed a character with a symptomatic kidney stone. The majority were male (88%). Surgical intervention was performed in 7/17 cases (shockwave lithotripsy n = 1, ureteroscopy n = 2, nephrectomy n = 1, transurethral removal n = 1, unknown n = 2), spontaneous passage or medical expulsive therapy in 7/17 cases and no treatment or resolution portrayed in 3/17 cases. The only surgical complication shown was ureteral avulsion during ureteroscopy. Inpatient management was seen in 9/14 (64%) cases with event resolution. This study identified a number of kidney stone depictions that may be misleading or misrepresent the presentation and management of this condition. Although likely portrayed for plot development and dramatic effect, this could potentially reinforce inaccurate beliefs or misconceptions and future depictions should be mindful of this.

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ePub ahead of print