Many patients complain of some pain after having a ureteral stent is removed. This pain is usually mild and self-limited. However, the pain can sometimes be severe. Because patients may not have been warned about the possibility of significant pain beforehand, it can come as an unwelcome surprise, and patients may be left wondering whether something is wrong. Patients who are affected by this pain may describe it as being worse than their original stone pain. In some cases the pain can be bad enough to bring them back to the emergency room.
Up to now, there hasn’t been much research on this topic and it was not clear how often this phenomenon occurs or what might be done to prevent it. A recent publication in the journal BJU International now suggests that severe pain after stent removal may occur in as many as half (55%) of patients. In the study, performed by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center, patients having their indwelling ureteral stents removed were either given a placebo pill or a single 50mg dose of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) rofecoxib fifteen minutes before their stent removal procedure. Patients were asked to report their pain just before and 24 hours after their stent removal on a scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 7 or above being considered severe pain. Six of the eleven patients (55%) given placebo developed severe pain after their stent removal while none of the ten patients given rofecoxib developed severe pain.
The authors speculated that the mechanism by which the NSAID medicine may have provided such a dramatic reduction in severe pain occurrence might have been through reducing ureteral spasms or by decreasing pressure within the kidney. While the results of the study are very encouraging, further research will be needed to confirm the findings. For now though, the study is currently the only evidence we have on how often post stent removal severe pain occurs and what we might do to prevent it – take a single dose of a NSAID pain medication fifteen minutes before removing a stent.
Of note, the medication used in the study, rofecoxib (brand name Vioxx), was withdrawn from the US market in 2004 due to concerns about cardiovascular side effects and it is no longer available. The authors report in their paper that they now use a single 220mg dose of the NSAID naproxen with their patients. Naproxen is available over the counter (as a generic or under brand names such as Aleve) but you should check with your doctor about whether you should take it and make sure to read the warnings from the manufacturer as some patients with certain medical conditions shouldn’t take it.
While you might think that a single pill of naproxen can’t be very strong, other research actually supports its use for acute pain. In 15 randomized studies involving 1509 participants, naproxen was found to be effective for relieving moderate to severe pain in patients after surgery. Half of patients who were given a single dose of naproxen experienced at least half pain relief and the effects of the medicine lasted on average for up to nine hours. You can read more about naproxen for postoperative pain at the Cochrane Collaboration website.
REFERENCE: Tadros NN, Bland L, Legg E, Olyaei A, Conlin MJ. “A single dose of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) prevents severe pain after ureteric stent removal: a prospective, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. BJU International, 2012.