Ask Do I have to have a stent?

February 25, 2012

“I have been diagnosed with an 8mm stone in my left kidney and told I would be going for lithotripsy to have is broken up and will need a stent inserted for about a month or so. I have a huge concern with the stent portion of this. After much research on and off the web, it seems out of all patients that have had a stent inserted post lithotripsy, about 80% to 90% of the time it has resulted in extreme pain and discomfort. To me, it seems like this “technology” is not yet ready for prime time. I am now going to forgo the lithotripsy and deal with the stone just to avoid having the stent! So my question is, can you offer any comfort on this seeming archaic practice of stenting. Is it a requirement? What is the down side of not stenting after the lithotripsy?”


Stents have been used for decades and are not a new technology. Although much effort has been placed in trying to develop a pain-free stent, that goal has not yet been reached. As you point out, many patients do experience discomfort when stents are placed, although the percentage who experience “extreme” pain is likely lower than 80-90%.

Urologists will make a decision on whether to place a stent based on the type of surgery that is planned, the size of the stone being treated, whether a stone has been lodged for a period of time, the presence of other patient factors (renal impairment, solitary kidneys), and based on their own professional experience. Whether a stent is a “requirement” therefore can vary based on the patient, the stone, and the urologist.

The potential downside of not placing a stent is the risk of obstruction of the ureter due to either residual stone fragments or temporary swelling of the ureter after surgery. There may also be an increased risk of long term blockage (stricture) of the ureter if a stent is not placed in certain situations. However, a recent review article in the Journal of Urology found that among those undergoing uncomplicated ureteroscopy for stones in the ureter that were stented versus those that were not stented, there was no difference in the stone free rate, development of fever, unplanned medical visits, requirements for pain medication, or long term complications. Stented patients as expected had more stent related discomfort. Note though that these findings don’t necessarily apply to all stone patients as the study only included stones treated in the ureter with “uncomplicated” surgeries. (Pengfei and colleagues, “The results of ureteral stenting after ureteroscopic lithotripsy for ureteral calculi: A systematic review and meta-analysis”, Journal of Urology

Ultimately, discussing with your urologist whether you are a candidate for having a procedure without a stent may be your wisest choice. An 8mm stone is large enough that it is not likely to pass on its own and in some cases an untreated obstructing stone can lead to kidney damage or other problems if it is ignored.


In our “Ask” section, we field questions from stone formers or their family members. See previous questions and answers here.

About Dr. Mike Nguyen

Mike M Nguyen, MD, MPH, is a urologist and an Associate Professor of Clinical Urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, CA. He specializes in the treatment of kidney stones with both surgery and dietary prevention and the in the treatment of kidney and prostate cancer using the latest robotic surgical approaches. He sees patients at clinics located in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and La Canada, CA. He is the founder of the website.
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31 Responses to Ask Do I have to have a stent?

  1. Joanne says:

    Iv been looking on this page a lot recently having had yet another kidney stone! I suffer cystinuria a rare kidney disease which produces kidney stones (cystine) iv passed well over a hundred stones and I’m only 26! Occasionally they are too big to pass on my own and iv just had surgery to removed a 1cm stone! (Biggest one yet) which was obstructing my ureta causing hydronyphrosis and uretanyphrosis (not sure on spelling) surgery partially removed the stone but surgeons pushed the remained back up to my kidney (accidentally I presume) anyway a stent was fitted and iv had it out today 7 days later this was only due to the fact I literally couldn’t walk with the discomfort it was terrible!! And I was up and down A&E complaining daily!! However I will say that ONE occasion out of the previous 6 times iv had stents put it that it wasn’t painful at all only slightly uncomfortable! This could be due to how they are placed or the positioning! Only thing I can suggest to ease the pain is to pee in a bath filled with warm water it really really helps, some may think this is gross but fellow stenters will know you will literally do anything to help the pain and discomfort from a stent! Good luck to everyone with stents and stones and I really hope they come up with a new pain free stent!!

  2. Natashia Sarafin says:

    I currently have a 3 mm stone. For three weeks I had severe pain in my back and side. It was different then any stone I had in the past, went to the er. Tried to pass it on a medication that makes urine flow easier and nothing. My bladder spasms get longer and worse everyday. By the time I go home, it feels like my back is broken. I am so scared to do the procedure… if I have to get a stint I will not do it. I fly out in two weeks for a trip and I am afraid if it’s not gone I’ll end up back in the ER thoughts?

  3. Robert Hill says:

    I’ve had a stent in my right ureter for two weeks now. No pain at all. None. Yes, for around 12 days there was the constant urgency to pee. But that has subsided and I’m able to hold it once again. There is a little pain at the completion of the emptying process, but it’s not extreme. An Ibuprofen once or twice a day knocks that out easily enough.

    Going in for ureteroscopy next Thursday, 7 days from now. He will be placing another stent for another three weeks.; I understand the need as my right kidney is in terrible shape due to a 9mm stone plugging it for an unknown period of time. He also assured me that since I am used to one being there now, the new one will not be any bother at all.

    In the process of altering my diet to see if I can get these damn stones under control. I cannot live the rest of my life like I have the last few weeks, and the last year. It’s horrible, and sometimes I wish it was just over.

  4. Simey says:

    I had 5 operations over the previous 4 months to deal with many kidney stones, including full septic shock and ICU. During that time I have had either 1 stent and a nephrostomy or two stents and yes they hurt, however my last operation to clean out all the fragments was last week and although I asked not to the surgeons inserted two stents on strings. I expected a huge amount of pain which happened after the lithroscopy last time but actually there was almost none, just slight discomfort. My partner removed both stents last night in the bath, not pain but just discomfort. I think the pain for me was caused by the stone fragments getting jammed in the ureter next to the stent, as once they were removed the stents seemed fine.

  5. David Mizer says:

    My Doctor seems to think that no matter my experience, he will simpithize then do the complete opposite of what you expect. I informed him that in my past stones, when stents were placed, I never passed a stone until it was removed. All the discomfort of their placement was as everyone described, painfull!! He would say that he will make the decision to place it based on the treatment. He is aware of my past where I had removed the stents myself, with the blessing of my past doctors with a simple phone call. Good thing for the attached strings. This time the doctor thinks he was so clever as to remove the string so I have no ability to remove on my own. Well, he said he wants to make sure the stent is in place for at least 2 days, but does not give me an appointment to remove it until 6 days. So far it’s the 4th day and I have not passed any stones. When I see him Tuesday morning, I will let him remove the stent, and after that time, I am going to take great pleasure in “Firing is ASS!!!!!!”

  6. stonethecrows says:

    I feel so much sympathy for all my fellow sufferers out there. I had about three weeks of attacks culminating in an ER visit when pain was unbearable. There got the

    diagnosis of kidney stone I think 5 mm, and more in the kidney. Got an appt with a urologist, but my Primary Care Dr. screwed it up and that Doc was not on my

    insurance plan. At least I got a prescription for vicotin and flowmax. Took 2 wks after that to get an appointment with another urologist. By that time the stone

    had passed from kidney, so I had had a few days pain free. Xrays and scans were ordered and a follow up appointment scheduled. At that appt the specialist made me

    aware that the stone was potentially about to wreak havoc on my bladder. I was like well that sucks because I am flying to Europe for a 10 day trip. At this point

    in my story I am happy to relate that there was competence demonstrated by the physician and and his staff in greasing the wheels to get me in the next day for

    surgery. But I also must add to the chorus of those who were not exactly made aware of the potential pain involved with the stent. I was just expecting pee urgency and blood in urine but there was also a lot of pain, epecially initially, when peeing. Some really nasty clots too, best not describe. Ever seen those extruder machines they make breakfast cereal with? But after third day little pain in urethra, a sort of low level fairly constant pain in lower left abdomen, and sometimes intense but brief pain in my kidney when urinating.

    So I start my trip to Amsterdam tomorrow PM. My plan is to drink a lot of water tonight and tomorrow up til about 2:00. But I don’t want to be getting up every 20 minutes to pee on a plane. It is a long flight to London! Still I am trying to remain optimmistic. The vicadin has been working ok to take the edge off, and though my specialist refused my request to prescribe Voltarol suppositories (Diclofenic Sodium), I was able to get a naturopathic Dr. I know to write a little stash of these from a compounding pharmacy. I read online somewhere (maybe here) that these were very effective for some people. I will follow up with my experience with this medicine. I am also taking some ibuprofen to alternate with the Vicadin. So pain will be okay I think. I am more worried about having to pee all the time, and having to pee urgently.

    Anyway, I’ll leave it at that. My heart goes out to everyone who is dealing with this bad bad thing.

  7. Jeni R says:

    I’ve got stents in both kidneys. This was my 3rd surgery. The opening on the right was narrowed so they could only get dye through. The doctors had been ignoring the right side until they decided to check on it due to pain because the stones were so small. Well they can’t get out. I’m trying to use the least amount of real pain killers because I don’t want to continue taking the stuff. I can only take Toradol for so long. Stents hurt a lot more than doctors think. My Christmas was ruined by all this. My birthday is coming up and I don’t want to be in all this pain. The stones on the left might not be stones but calcifications. I don’t know or understand it. I’ve got such a high pain tolerance it works against me. All I can do is describe what I feel. When I went into the ER the first time I got everyone’s attention when I got the shivers and my blood pressure tanked to 48/23. I got up telling the nurse to get a machine that worked! I then walked to the bathroom unaided. They got another machine and confirmed my pressure was that low. I’m told I’m good at compensating. Right now I feel like I’ve got horrid menstrual cramps. I haven’t missed those at all. Thanks for listening to my tail of woe.

  8. Katz9lives says:

    5th procedure this week and due to my last “stint” episode where the urologist broke a serious sweat trying to fish it out for 15 minutes, I insisted on a stint attached to string (similar to fishing wire) I feel like a puppet with string taped to my thigh but I can and will yank it out myself when I’m good and ready!

  9. Mary Petitt says:

    I went to the ER on 2/24/16 and it was discovered I had two 8mm+ kidney stones. One in the urethra and one still in my left kidney. I had lithotripsy performed on the stone that was in my urethra and a stent was inserted. I ended up remaining in the hospital for 3 days due to an infection. OMG, the stent has made life a living hell. I am going back this Thursday (3/17/16) to have the other stone blasted and I was told a new stent would be put in. I am praying I will be able to refuse the stent as I would rather give birth to a 50 pound baby than deal with this pain. I collapsed in the grocery store this past Friday, from the extreme pain. I have been going to work, though I cannot concentrate and my productivity is virtually zero. My boss and co-workers keep telling me I need to stay home, but I have bills to pay and cannot continue to take time off. Reading these entries is not giving me much hope and I find it so discouraging and hard to believe that with all the complaints about the ureteral stent that there has not been any efforts to come up with a better solution. And now I’m afraid of what will happen after the stent is removed. I wish I had known all this before I allowed one to be inserted in the first place. Prior to my procedure in February, I asked lots of questions about it. The urologists and the nurses all told me it was no big deal. F them! They have no idea what they are talking about. Oh, and my pre-op instructions say I can take nothing for the pain except an occasional Tylenol for 7 days prior to the procedure this week. So, I am really hating life right now. Tylenol doesn’t even touch the pain. So, I guess I will see what happens this Thursday. Hope I don’t have to become a raving lunatic to get my point across.

  10. Laura says:

    I have 2 stints in right now, had them 2 wks, for 4 dime size stones, it hurts like crazy!!!! Going in the morning for lithotripsy, can’t wait to get the stents out!!! Doc says he will probably put more in but I’m am refusing them!! Glad to hear I’m not the only one that agrees this is verrry painful!!!

    • Chris says:

      Both sides? You poor thing, I had another stone pass out my left kidney the day after the stent was placed for my right kidney. Like you I have stones on both sides. I was so sick, I was vomiting, and had diarrhea with colonic spasming while the stone was passing. The didn’t know what the deal was. Did another CAT scan, and stone left ureter. My take home pain medication is a joke and it doesn’t work on the urgency spasm pain at all. Feels like when you have to pee really bad to where you put your hands between your legs and you jumping up and down cause you got to go. It has felt like that for a lot of the time. On and off now, but flares everytime I urinate and they want me to drink more, but I am peeing like constantly small amounts and that is without drinking extra. Is your urologist agreeing to not put in another stent after the tripsy? I had to have a stent placed last friday. I wont be having lithotrypsy for a couple of weeks yet. He said he wants to put one back in after the procedure. This stent has not been anything but annoying, painful, and almost unbearable in terms of the feeling of urgency almost 24/7. It is now Tuesday, and some of my symptoms are not as severe as after initial placement. Yet the urgency and pain when urinating is still there, and I HATE IT!!

  11. Missaray says:

    I had a stent placed after lithotripsy surgery for removal of a large kidney stone in August 2015. Had the surgery on a Friday morning, stent removed the following Monday. That weekend was the worst weekend I’d ever experienced. Tolerated it because I knew it would only be for a short time, but could not wait until it was removed. Easy removal. No pain to speak of until the spasms began about 6 hours later. Very, very painful, but managed with pain meds. I kept waiting for a different pain to go away that started about a week after the stent was removed. I thought it was just part of the healing process until it just never went away. Fast forward to today – 5 months after the initial surgery. For nearly every day since August 2015 I’ve had pain in my left side. Saw the urologist (again) today who has scheduled me for another surgery due to what he suspects is a stricture caused by the lithotripsy procedure. The surgery is scheduled for Feb. 5th. He also told me I will have to wear a stent post-surgery, but did not tell me for how long. I am horrified after reading most of these posts to think I will have to wear a stent for more than 2 days!!! I was thinking I will be able to go back to work a few days after the surgery. Now, I’m thinking I won’t be able to work because of all the pain and suffering. Will update after my surgery done. Just glad to find this site so that I can converse with others who’ve had this terrible and terrifying experience. Thank you.

  12. Jay says:

    I will be having a lithotripsy done on a small stone that I have which I believe the doc said it around 3mm. He said it is just big enough to blast therefore it was up to me. My last litho was done on an 8mm stone and I had no choice when it came to the stent, which was a terrible experience. I aired my concerns with the doctor and he said I will not need one this time. The urologist who did the last litho is also doing this one so can I expect that he will go along with what his colleague told me? I’m terrified of ever having another stent and figured by opting to just get the stone blasted now that I’ll avoid it possibly getting larger whereas I’m just delaying the inevitable litho procedure and risking not having a choice when it comes to the stent placement. Any thoughts?

  13. Two years ago in March I had a stone and the urologist suggested laser surgery. The insurance would not approve so instead he did lithotripsy but did not work. During the same surgical procedure he decided to do Ureteroscopy and grab the stone but it did not work either. They left a stent (#1) in there, very painful, and sent me home. Two weeks later the insurance approved laser surgery. The laser surgery worked and they put another stent (#2) in there. I went through two more weeks of pain and then they removed the stent. The pain got worse for weeks and finally they realized the ureter folded causing Hydronephrosis. For a third time I had to go to the hospital and the doctor put another stent (#3) in there. This time after the removal the pain disappeared after 3 weeks and I was fine for almost 2 years till January this year when I experienced pain again in the same area. I thought it was another stone but they told me there was a stricture and I needed another stent to be placed in there to correct it. I had that stent (#4) put in there in March and the doctor left it in there for a month (very painful). It was removed in April and now it’s been 5 weeks and I’m still in pain. I certainly don’t want more stents put inside me, they’re painful inside and there is even more pain after the removal. I’m afraid something has gone wrong again and I have again hydronephrosis and might need another surgery and another stent place inside. On Monday I am having an ultrasound. What other alternatives are there for this problem? Are there any natural remedies?

  14. Michelle says:

    I am in 5 years remision butmy kiddney is failing i have a stent that hast to be replaced every 6 months but since my medicade droped me i cant aford the surgery help me pleaze

  15. Michelle Salinas says:

    Stent in my left kiddney have no insurancr and its been over a year and im in alot of pain

  16. gloria says:

    7 years i have been doing this battle i refuse to ever have another stent put in i was hospitalized twice after stent removal because i became septic i even went into a-fib because of the infection in my blood i will suffer through the surgeries and the removal of the stones but never another stent i have had 9 lithotripsies, parathyroids removed and still have stones or should i say boulders and my left kidney is a gravel pit getting ready for surgery in april percutaneous removal of a large stone not looking forward to this at all but so tired of constant infections that cause high blood pressure my heart goes out to all the men that go through kidney stones i gave birth to seven large babies all natural would do it again but the kidney stone are the worst

  17. Kerri says:

    I’m the first female in my family to get kidney stones and recently had a stent put in. It’s excruciately painful to bend over and just as painful when I pee! I’m hating it! I’m fearful of it coming out as I was informed I won’t be knocked out in surgery like I was when I was put into place. Not cool. I’m 42 yrs old and had to put my life on hold while I work all of this out. Not very happy right now.

    • Lis says:

      I feel your pain!! I have had a stent on for a week with a 6mm kidney stone says it was 7.5 but? Maybe it broke up a little? I have had 2 CT scans in 2 months time & in severe psi. With this stent! I hate it! I have to put my life on hold & my doctor wanted this in pre- surgery to break it up! They called & wanted me to wait 36 days hell no! I cried & said I cant take it anymore! I have to be on pain meds 24/7! Hurts to pee! If I’m not constantly drinking water or laying down on my heating pad! Which is a must!!! I woke up last night trying in horrible hortibke pain 6 days post surgery for the stent I was in horrible pain! Sweating! Ready to get sick! Trying not to so I could takeca pain pill!! I caught my breath took the pill- then a few minutes later got sick only a little and took a colder bath- laid in bed & was feeling better- bleeding was bad! I think maybe I pased a little of the stone today? Thank God I have surgery pushed up for two weeks post safety & not a month! Drink your lemon water- mountain dew or lemonade everyday if that’s going to help with these horrible stones that are being made!!! Worst pain ever!!!! Bladder feels horrible with pulsing spasums that don’t stop! Waiting for nightmare to be over!!

      • lis, did you have pain with you 6 mm stone, a month ago i was in the er severe pain and vomiting from my stone discovered on CT scan, have not had ANY pain since leaving the hospital, but don’t know if i have passed stone. follow up visit doc says still sees blood in my urine thinks i still have it. opted to have another ct scan before seeing him again in a week, its been 1 month no pain been drinking like crazy even more than normally do ( i drink a lot of water).. what made you do surgery were you in pain, i ‘m not in favor of any surgeries not having any pain feel like just waiting this out and see if my body takes care of it… passing tiny sand like stuff since when i do filter my urine.. so maybe it is breaking up… anyways just looking for opinions on to have the surgery or not, DON”T WANT a stent based on what i have seen on these posts.. your feedback on your situation would be helpful to me.. thanks i’m55 year old woman very active runner and play competitive tennis

  18. Charles Swift says:

    Get it out as soon as possible, longer it is in , more encrusted and tougher to remove. Also it has been my experience that the longer its in the more it hurts to pee right after removal. I understand it is in there for a reason, but as soon as the goal of the benifit of putting it in is reached ,, get it out. Many times I have had urologist take such a relaxed possition on this , all the while you are in excruciating pain, it can really really ware on you.

  19. Charles Swift says:

    Not true, any time I have had a stint in for more than 6 weeks it becomes incrusted and much harder to remove, to the point where it resulted in having to put another stint in for 24 hours because of the encrustment.

  20. Charles Swift says:

    I have been dealing with stones and stints for 20 years. Anything you want to know, just ask me . All the comments about pain when urinating with stints and blood is 1000% true. The pain and the blood are just part of the deal and it is bad. One thing worse , just imagin when the stint does not seet properly , pain x 10.

  21. Garry says:

    I’ve just had a lithotripsy procedure with stent..I’m having excructiating pain when urinating, there is still bleeding in the urine
    I’m into my fourth day now.
    Is this common?

    • James says:

      Yes. I have had mine for three weeks and the blood may come and go. It may be great one day and the next day look like u slit your wrists. Bloody horrible things. I am requesting I dot have one after stone is lasered. ( they had to put one in me as my ureter was not dilated enough ).

  22. Frank says:

    I had a stent removed yesterday. Procedure was short but very painful. Urination afterwards is much worse than with the stent, like a needle going into me every time. How long before this begins to improve? Been 24 hours so far with no change.

    • Charles Swift says:

      Very soon, drink lots of water or beer, whatever you have to do to keep peeing, not to much beer because the point is to stay hydrated right after stint is removed. I have had no less than 9 stints and the key for me was to stay hydrated, I have done it both ways , hurts alot more dehydrated. Ironicly I have a stint in me right now and am schedualed for a lithotripsy and the guy wants to take currant stint out , lazer stones, and then no stint , I think you need the stint afterwardsl

  23. Aneesh says:

    I had my stent for over 2 months now. will it harm in any way to have the stent left for so long?

    • Dr. Mike Nguyen says:

      Typically, stents can stay in for 3 months. The main concern is development of stones on stents. In some patients, this can occur rapidly while in other patients it may never happen. Most urologists will therefore err on removing or exchanging stents by 3 months. If no stones are seen on a stent by that time, some stents can even be left in place for 6 to 12 months. This is usually for long term issues with ureteral obstruction, not for stents placed after stone surgery.

      • Charles Swift says:

        All I can tell you doc is that it sounds like you never had a stint in youl It can be excruciating from day 1 until its out. I can not even come close to describing the level of pain. My neighbors have knocked on our door twice in the last week because of my screaming pain.
        Doctors always ask pain where is it on a 1 to 10 ? Ok doc , how about on a scale of 1 to 10 its about a 50

        • Lis says:

          I hear ya!!!
          I think they have never had this done before! I called & begged them to add me to the surgery list for two weeks post! I on severe pain! Pain meds every 4 hours!

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