From a Patient’s Perspective: The Ureteral Stent: Friend or Foe?

Even though different people respond to stents in different ways, I suspect anyone who’s ever lived with a ureteral stent remembers the experience.  I have had two, and both were, indeed, memorable.

Prior to undergoing a pyeloplasty, (a surgical procedure to correct a urinary tract obstruction) I was informed that a stent would be in place for about seven weeks.   I also recall being told, or perhaps reading, that such stents cause “discomfort” in some patients.  In my mind the term “discomfort” equates to nothing more than an annoyance or a nuisance, so going into the surgery I was not overly concerned.  For the first couple of days following surgery, perhaps because of post-surgical pain killers, it seemed the stent would be absolutely no problem.  I could hardly feel it.  “This will be a piece of cake,” I thought.

Then, shortly after going home, I became increasingly aware that some apparently sharp object was attempting to drill a hole through the wall of my bladder.  In fact, the image of a shish-kabob skewer came to mind.  At the same time, there was the sensation that something was tugging on my right kidney, trying to pull it down from its usual location.  It was difficult to find comfortable positions…and it felt as though gravity was becoming my worst enemy.  Urination was frequent and painful, and my urine continued to be bloody for the entire seven weeks.  Involuntary tears came to my eyes and waves of nausea were common.  Finally, I discovered that sitting in a recliner and tipping it back approximately half way seemed to relieve the worst of the pain, and that allowed me to get a little sleep at night.

After seven long weeks, I welcomed the removal of that first stent.  A generous application of lidocaine made the procedure entirely tolerable, and I watched on the monitor as the stent was grabbed and the upper curly-cue began its descent down through the ureter.  Once I was free of the stent, the relief I felt far surpassed the minor discomfort associated with its removal.

About a month later, I accepted a second stent with guarded optimism.  This one was placed following lithotripsy for a 1+ cm stone in my left kidney.  It seemed logical to me, since this ureter was not compromised or swollen, that this stent should not hurt nearly as much as the first.  Unfortunately, I was wrong about that. Once again, the same familiar painful and distressing physical sensations returned.  And once again I sought relief in the recliner.   The stent allowed stone fragments to pass, but I was elated to be rid of it after only three weeks.

The second stent experience left me with a new determination to do everything I could to prevent future stone formation.  If making a few adjustments, such as drinking much more water each day, can prevent new stones and another stent placement sometime down the road, then I was ready to change old habits.   Accepting the inevitability of new stones, then treating them as they become problematic, is no longer acceptable.  My new plan is to be well-informed and pro-active and do all I can to discourage new stone formation.  In fact, it’s the vivid memory of previous painful stents that continues to be the most powerful motivator.  In a way, then, those stents are still serving a most valuable purpose, and I should remain grateful for them.

Editors note: Bonnie writes about her experiences as a stone patient in her posts. If you have experiences as a patient you would like to share, feel free to add a comment or send her an email at: ask@kidneystoners.org

 

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356 Responses to From a Patient’s Perspective: The Ureteral Stent: Friend or Foe?

  1. Christopher says:

    Last Wed I woke up with slight pain with the pain increasing thru out the day. I raced to the hospital er in record fashion! I was told I have stones in both kidneys,but I had one 8mm stone causing blockage in the right kidney. They were able to perform removal of stones by laser in right kidney and placed a renal stent on Fri. They wanted to send me home right after the procedure,but I wasn’t budging! I was discharged late Sat afternoon. I drove myself home and went to sleep after I took 1 5mg perc and 1 5mg oxycodone. I didn’t wake up till 8 pm Sun! I could barely move and I was in so much pain! I had Dominoes deliver my breakfast,lunch, and supper.It dread every time I have to urinate! They want you to drink plenty of water”fluids” ,but then that means more frequent urination which means more frequent pain! They are saying I can pull this out myself this Wed.Just 5 days after placement. A couple years ago I pulled a stent out myself in anger after the VA couldn’t get me in soon enough to remove the stent. I pulled it out while taking a hot steamy shower. I was in such relief afterwards. I believe I will feel great relief after I pull this one out as well.

  2. Shelley says:

    I’ve had my stents in for almost a month and they’re being removed in 3 days and I can’t WAIT!!!! I feel like I have to pee ALL THE TIME and it burns, my kidney hurts when I pee, I feel like I could pee seconds after I get done!!!! I’ve got discomfort in my groin and lower abdomen and can’t get comfortable very easily. I had a 7mm kidney stone and the attacks were awful so these stents better have been worth it because I want them out SOOOOOOOOOO bad!!!!!

  3. Steve Mortimore says:

    you all have my sympathy, i currently have a stent fitted to my left side with a stone of 1.7cm and another of 6mm, the larger one was blocking the exit from the kidney.
    yes the stent is very uncomfortable and painful at times but compared to the acute pain i was in prior to the stent being fitted, its a fair trade off.
    I am 4 weeks in to the 4 – 6 week wait for the stones and stent to be removed, the first 2 – 3 weeks apart from passing blood when urinating wasn’t to bad but by the 4th week the discomfort increases the pain relief seems to do nothing and urinating is a nightmare, it burns like hell and your kidney feels like its going to explode, couple that with the constant ache down my left side, the only relief is to lay down !
    looking forward to having the stent and stones removed in a week or so and ill update after the procedure is done.

  4. Mary Lou says:

    I also have stent which was inserted after a 3rd lithotripsy for kidney stones. This is the 3rd time I’ve had a stent inserted and this is the longest time it has to stay in. After 2 weeks I am still have stinging & burning on urination which lasts for a while. I am taking Pyridium 3 x a day which does take the edge off but it only lasts for about 3 hours at a time. In between I take ibuprofen or Tylenol. Relief only comes when lying flat with feet up. I manage to do errands after taking Pyridium & make sure I’m home before it wears off. Stent needs to stay in for 2.5 more weeks as doctor says ureter has to stay open. If it comes out too soon I could have problems leading to losing kidney. Therefore I have to grin & bear it for another 2.5 weeks. To all of you out there, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just have to suffer until we get there.

    • Experiencing "some discomfort" says:

      There is a light for some of us, not for us all. However, your attitude is the right one. Anyone can do anything for a month or two, you’ll get there. I’ve had two stents for 5 years, not trying to one up but offer that I understand far to well and when you have a light to focus on, you absolutely should. I want to envy all of you, but I can only be happy for you, there are few people I would wish this hell upon and certainly none of you.

  5. Experiencing "some discomfort" says:

    I’ve had stents on both sides in place for over 5 years…as you might imagine there are days, though not many, when I wake up and really wonder if being alive is worth it. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I know it hurts but hey, you could be me.

    Regards,

    Experiencing “some discomfort”

  6. Erin says:

    I had a 9mm stone removed today and was totally dreading it. Sounds crazy but I passed a 10mm stone 7 years ago so I held out for about 2 months before having this one removed. The procedure itself was not bad. Going under and the stent after we’re my biggest fears. The going under part went well, in fact I did not take any pain mess because I don’t tolerate them well at all. The stent is definitely uncomfortable and feels like a bad UTI, luckily I only have to have it for a week! I have been taking IBUPROFEN and continued the FloMax and they seem to be making it workable. The removal of the stent is my current fear obsession, it’s just the unknown that bugs me! I have survived a c-section with twins so I know that I can handle it I just want to understand the pain level as much as possible so that I can be mentally ready for the stent removal!

    • C Puzz says:

      I am the biggest baby ever and was terrified of having my stent removed. I also had a couple of C sections and such unbelievable pain from my kidney stone. I will tell you it really is no big deal. It’s super quick and you barely feel it. And it’s a huge relief to be rid of it!!! Don’t stress-just be excited for it to be out :)

  7. Elena Gomez says:

    I can’t believe it has taken me so long to find this site. But it makes me realize my experience is, relatively, normal. I’ve had 2 prior kidney stone attacks. The first was 20 yrs ago and the second about 11yrs ago. But this has been my first experience with a stent that I was told might be uncomfortable & would allow me to return to work. Those were both either gross under estimations or flat out LIES! I began experiencing extreme pain almost immediately after being released from out patient surgery. After a few days of no relief, even with pain meds, I called Dr’s office & everyone, very nonchalantly, said that it was from the stent. I explained that this was nothing anywhere in the realm of discomfort or uncomfortable. Again, I was simply told, it was all from the stent. The pain & problems from the stent have been 10 times worse than the actual attack. I was diagnosed on May 2nd. (After 3 weeks of my chalking off discomfort & moderate pain to menstruation or ovulation.) I received stent on May 10th. Lithotripsy on May 27th. Yesterday I was told at least 2 more weeks of the stent in place & then we’d reassess. As for work…I teach middle school. I basically missed the last 6 weeks of school. The pain requires meds and they make me a little fuzzy around the edges. I can’t function properly in class while on meds. And the stent causes frequent need to urinate, increased frequency of urination, and once the urgency is felt I have about 60 seconds to get to the bathroom. Teachers don’t have the luxury of urinating as needed. I usually go right before classes, at midday, and immediately after school. I also am needing to measure and strain urine for 10 more days. Can’t do that easily at school. Thankfully school is out now. I need to clean my classroom but after that I have 6-7 weeks of time to get healthy without getting docked on my paycheck. (Hoping the right kidney stones ca be dissolved by medication.)

  8. Kevin Byrne says:

    I am a 58 year old male and had my kidney stone removed a week ago and a Double J Stent was inserted during surgery. I can state without doubt the Stent is very painful indeed. I can only urinate when I sit down on the toilet and lean forward over my knees, totally forget standing up the pain and cramps will be too painful.
    I also constantly pass blood in my urine but understand this is a common factor, as is dificalty controlling bladder function.
    I am taking pain relief but to be honest the pain never really goes away and can be excruciating at times when you urinate. I will have the Stent removed under local anastetic in about 2 to 3 weeks.

  9. Stuart says:

    Am presently going through the process of my first stent. My surgeon talked about “some discomfort”, I wont be trusting him again, It hurts.
    Its been a week since my stent insertion and there is still significant levels of blood in my urine, and pain when peeing.
    I have stopped taking the strong painkillers but am still taking some combined paracetamol and anti inflammatory tablets after walking for half an hour.
    It would appear that we can put man on the moon, but we cant ascertain how to effectively stop kidney stones. I drink more water than a fish, have amended my diet with less meat etc (calcium stone) and yet I’m still getting new stones….

  10. Alison littlejohn says:

    Had my stent in for a week it’s killing me I am pain all the time I can’t even walk right it so dam painfully I’ve got to wait 5weeks to wait to get this removed but got holidays 3 weeks. Not sure if I can got help

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