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:


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

  1. Bob says:

    I had severe hydronephrosis caused by a 1.2CX 1.0cm stone at the UPJ right kidney- lithotripsy resistant X3. I had ureteroscopic laser lithotomy done by our overworked, talented and underpaid doctors here in Toronto and a stent placed. Some pain the first 24 hours but now not so bad – cut down on my oxycodone the second day but importantly to me I cut down on the pain by also using Tamsulosin every day. Some bloody urine comes and goes but I am so grateful to have this stone out so my kidney can heal. I also drink 4 litres of water a day which is probably why I didn’t get this first stone til now at 59 years of age. Immediate post op pee was like razor blades but it is getting better.

  2. Sandra says:

    I had my stent put in few days ago. Few hours after the procedure i end up in ER with laborlike pain.screeming like a crazy woman. The doctor put me on morphi e and kept over night at the hospital. I don’t pass the day without pain medications. It’s a nightmare !!!! Tomorrow i have a stone ( 11mm) removal procedure ( ultrasounds) . If i knew hiw much it hurts, i would never agreed to uteral stent .

  3. Sandra says:

    I had my stent put in few days ago. Few hiurs after the procedure i end up in ER with laborlike pain.screeming like a crazy woman. The doctor put me on morphi e and kept over night at the hospital. I don’t pass the day without pain medications. It’s a nightmare !!!! Tomorrow i have a stone ( 11mm) removal procedure ( ultrasounds) . If i knew hiw much it hurts, i would never agreed to uteral stent .

  4. solomon lemma says:

    My Dr removed a 6mm stone 4 days ago and placed a stent. The first two days were really bad, when I pee I feel like sharp broken glass were coming out with blood. With drinking more water i start feeling a little better, but I have to make sure I take my oxycodone every 4 hrs or I will be in pain. Monday I will go for the stent removal and I don’t know what to expect. Lying down is really difficult with the stent. I will do all I can not to go through this again. I am really surprised that they don’t have a better way of managing the pain. I wish you all the best.

  5. Rose Czarnecki says:

    My mind is at a world spin….. I don’t know if I can handle anymore. I lost my father in January my heart is broken….I miss him terribly…… I get sick in march. I go in the hospital the end of march with kidney stones and sepsis.i get a Stent put in and schedule surgery for June 5. I’ve been in pain for 2 months…. I go in the hospital on June 5 for surgery. .all prepped and ready to go for them to say nope your urine/blood came back positive. .so I have to go 2 days later for blood work to see if I’m pregnant or going through metapause. It’s now June 9th and I’m still waiting on the results…..I’m so sad and feel sooooooo lost. No one knows how I feel inside I’m lost and my heart is broken. My life has been pained and I’m breaking.


  6. Sharon says:

    I had Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy on May 29th (keyhole surgery). Two large stones were removed, one of them half the size of my kidney. I woke up in Recovery crying for pain meds and was told my heart rate was too low and they couldn’t give me more. On reflection I think it was the Stent in my kidney that was causing most of the pain.

    I was told that a Stent may be left in for up to one week. I now find out it will be one month.

    I too have a variety of problems with the Stent ranging from a strong and sudden urge to pee to pressure on various organs and pain in my kidney and back. Sometimes I feel fine and can walk around and suddenly I am lying flat on my back weeping with the pain. Forget bending over or trying to sleep on my side.

    Prior to the procedure I indicated to my surgeon I was concerned about the Stent because I had been told it was quite painful. She dismissed my comment and said that most of her patients had no problem with it. Interestingly, she would only sign my sick benefits form for 2 weeks, despite the fact I will have the Stent for 1 month and I can’t see getting over this pain anytime soon.

    I took my self off the opioids 1 week after surgery and now handle the pain with extra strength Tylenol when I need it, but it doesn’t take the discomfort away. I also increased the amount of water I drink thinking that maybe it will help the Stent ‘float’ and take pressure off the surrounding organs.

    Good Luck everyone.

  7. AJ says:

    I have been lucky enough to have suffered from chronic calcium oxalate stones for the last 12 years. My first stone was 11mm and jammed in my right renal pelvis causing obstruction and Hydronephrosis. I live in a small town in central western NSW and was transported to a larger regional hospital for a pyeloscopic procedure. This was done successfully; I was stented up and sent on my merry way without complications. I guess being an otherwise healthy 23 year old male made recovery fairly quick. Fast forward 12 years, hundreds more stones and 6 endoscopic procedures later, I have an entirely different opinion of stents.

    Just three days ago, I was struck down with that all too familiar pain in my lower left side and groin area. I knew that I had a 5mm stone there waiting to come out (had imaging done a week or two prior) so I drove myself to emergency at 4.00am and was given the usual pain meds and hydration. By 10.00am, I started to feel pain in my upper right side too. It seemed that both my kidney wanted to release stones from everywhere. A CT scan confirmed that I was passing a 4mm stone from my right kidney too.

    As I had been in pain for weeks from the left kidney stone and now the oncoming right one, I asked my dr if he could arrange surgery for me asap. My dr is awesome and arranged a surgery for me within hours in the neighbouring town.

    As I couldn’t drive from the pain meds (fentanyl), I arranged a lift to the neighbouring town and booked in to hospital. I expressed my concerns regarding stent placement to my surgeon prior to the procedure. I had been in surgery 6 months beforehand for a ureteroscopy and had a stent placed in my left ureter that essentially left me completely incapacitated from pain. Had the same experience with stents 2 times before also. My surgeon reassured me that all would be fine and that a stent was required for this round of surgery.

    I went in for the pyeloscopy and woke up with the usual discomfort. I was given IV pain meds and admitted as a precaution due to my previous stent disasters.

    All seemed fine until about 2 hours after surgery.

    I started to feel like I was being stabbed in the back and felt this intense pressure in my kidney, all the way down the right side of my flank and my lower abdomen. The pain made me pant and wrythe around like a wounded animal. The pain became more and more intense until all I could do was scream and sob hysterically. I couldn’t take any more IV meds as the nursing staff had pretty much loaded me up with all that they could without killing me.

    I ended up literally screaming for 2 hours. While this was happening, the nursing staff called my surgeon who recommended that the stent be removed. A wonderful and sweet young nurse (who was an amazing person to boot) stayed with me the whole time while I had a pain melt down and rubbed my back for me. She eventually helped me get into a hot shower to ease the discomfort of the stent. I’m a fairly private person and have never needed help showering but I didn’t care…the stent made me lose all inhibitions and I ripped everything off like a mad man.

    The lovely young nurse asked me if I wanted to remove the stent myself or if I wanted help. Trying to hold on to the last shreds of dignity I had left, I insisted that I would give it a try. I removed the tape that was securing the string of the stent around my “old fella” and gave it a gentle pull……darkness……I realize that I’m losing consciousness from the pain. I come to enough to ask the nurse to take the stent out for me.

    The poor lady grabs a hold of the string and starts pulling. It’s like lava, daggers, barbed wire and a swarm of bees is coming out my urethra. I scream and hold on to the shower rail like a busted old man. As the stent came out I felt like I was peeing. I see clots of blood and chunky bits come out with the stent. There is some relief but still not much.

    The lovely young nurse suggests that I try and pee. I joke that I usually don’t pee in the shower; it’s not the type of guy that I am. I also joke about having “stage fright.” The nurse says that she’s going to dispose of the stent and will be back in a moment.

    I take this opportunity to try and pee whilst squatting down in the shower. I feel this pressure inside me but nothing is coming out. I push as hard as I could without crapping myself…..sweet mercy! Thick, long and gelatinous blood clots erupt from my urethra……scream……more clots…..scream again……

    It’s like Satan had possessed my man parts and was giving me the most painful and disturbing ejaculation possible. The spasming from the stent was still going and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

    I am not a man who cries easily but this pain turned me into a blubbering three year old. I ended up being put on a fentanyl drip and sobbed for hours.

    I have no idea why my body does not like stents. This was probably the most painful experience I have ever endured. Like I said earlier, I have passed hundreds of kidney stones before but I have never experienced anything quite as painful as stents.

    I ended up apologizing to all the nursing staff and my surgeon for turning into a babbling mess during the stent incident. They all seemed to feel pretty bad for me.

    Long story short, I would rather stick broken glass in my eyeballs than have another stent.

  8. TR ODell says:

    about 2 years ago I had a stent inserted at VA Hospital which liked to drove me crazy pain and agony.
    2 weeks ago I had a stent inserted at a civilian hospital and have had no discomfort
    what so ever, I think there is a right way and a wrong way for placing these stents since
    the first one was horrible and this one no problem.

  9. debbie says:

    I’m having 5 kidney stones removed tomorrow and I, too, will be getting a Stent. I remember having one many years ago when I had stones removed. NOTHING compares to the pain, discomfort and utter torture of these “things” they deem absolute necessary. I called my dr. today to ask him if a Stent was really necessary. He said YES and pain meds help with the discomfort. NO THEY DON’T. NOTHING helps if one of the many people whose body seems to reject them These things (torture devices) don’t belong in us anymore than the damn stones do. It’s 2017 and this is still all they can do after removal of a kidney stone? I agree most doctors don’t understand unless they’ve LIVED it. They talk a good game but NOHTING beats first hand experience when it comes to Stents. I’m dreading this whole thing and having anxiety attacks so bad I’m considering NOT showing up tomorrow to have my stones removed. It’s terrible and I feel for each and everyone of you who’ve lived this nightmare.

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