How a Trip to Disney World Can Help You Pass a Kidney Stone

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While Walt Disney World may be “the happiest place on earth,” it’s not a place you’d normally think of when it comes to curing ailments. Sure, if you’re depressed or stressed, it could certainly help to put you in a good mood. And many parents of cancer victims credit Disney World trips from the Make-a-Wish foundation with helping their children find the will to keep fighting. But what if Disney World could actually help you fight an ailment?

Apparently, many men suffering from kidney stones have reported a surprising way that helped them pass. Many patients have reported passing after riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Walt Disney World.

How exactly is that possible? Well, that’s what two doctors set to find out.

Mining Kidney Stones on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Image Credit: Disney

Marc Mitchell, D.O., and David Wartinger, D.O. had heard numerous stories from patients about the roller coaster. One patient passed a stone after riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad three times in a row. Others said their stones passed hours after riding the coaster.

It would perhaps be a little cruel to take actual patients with kidney stones and make them ride a roller coaster multiple times. So for their experiment, Mitchell and Wartinger did the next best thing. They used a 3D printer to make a silicone kidney. It was modeled after a CT scan of a real kidney. Then they filled their model with urine and kidney stones. They originally tried ballistic gel, but it came apart easily. Another option would have been to use cow or pig kidneys. The doctors wisely decided that would be inappropriate.

Five Dozen Times Around the Track

So they put their fake kidney in a backpack and positioned in on the ride approximately where a kidney would rest in a real person. And then they rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 60 times in a row.

Yes, you read that right: 60 times in a row. They got no special treatment either. Just like every other guest, the doctors waited in line each time. They also let Disney cast members randomly place them on the ride.

After each turn on the roller coast, the researchers took note of the location of each kidney stone. If any had actually become dislodged, they re-positioned them.

So what did their research determine? Sitting near the front of the coaster resulting in a kidney stone becoming dislodged on 17% of the time. Sitting near the back, however, caused their model kidney to pass a stone 64% of the time.

What’s So Special About Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

Why does riding a roller coaster cause kidney stones to pass? Researchers aren’t sure. One thing is for sure: a high-intensity coaster is not necessary. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is fairly tame by roller coaster standards. In fact, it’s not necessarily the speed or the loops and turns that do the trick.

“We know that the moderate-intensity coaster worked,” said Wartinger. “You don’t need 70-mile-an-hour coasters, you don’t need precipitous drops, you don’t need inversions, you don’t need high speed turns. What I think is happening is we’re vibrating the stones loose.”

So there you have it. If you ever needed another excuse to take a Disney World vacation, a kidney stone might be just the answer.

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