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

  1. Shydz says:

    I am so glad I am not just a wimp! I was so eager to get the procedure to remove the stone. Everyone was saying I’d feel better once it was done. How do I now tell them it’s almost worst? I don’t want to get out if bed. This stent is making me feel miserable. The pain meds is wonderful, but makes me sleep. So I won’t be able to take it once I have to go back to work. And I only have enough pain meds for 3 days! And I have to keep it in for 3 weeks!!! Heaven help!!!

  2. Don says:

    I am 58 yrs old, and have had kidney stones for the past ~25yrs off and on. I have always been able to pass them with one exception 14 yrs ago. That one required a stent which did not cause me any major problems. This past April 2014 I started developing the signs of another stone (Painful back and flank area on the right side). In this case, my prior experience worked against me. I decided to work through this on my own, drink lots of water and force it out. Four weeks later, I developed a fever (102 * 104 deg.), I went to my doctor which directed me directly to the hospital. Turns out I had a large stone (approx. 1 in.) which was not going to pass on its on. My right kidney was 100% blocked and infected. Another 24 – 48 hrs and this could have been fatal. I had a stent put in to drain the kidney and was on IV antibiotics in the hospital for 4 days. Four weeks later this stent was removed and the stone laser-ed to break it up and a new stent put in. Four weeks after the second stent, I underwent a third procedure to remove the stent and insert a scope to examine the kidney. Two large pieces of the stone remained, so they were then laser-ed and a third stent was put in. This is where I currently am, awaiting a fourth procedure to remove the stent, and hopefully be clear of any stone fragments. These stents have all been very painful and very tiring. I have visible blood in my urine 90% of the time. Anywhere from a pink tint to tomato soup color and consistency. I am ready for this to be over!

  3. Jamie says:

    Thank you for your post! I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant and have had my stent for 5 weeks now. I will have to keep it in until after my delivery. I thought it was just me not being able to tolerate the stint so I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. I find myself crying by the end of the day recently in pain and find myself needing to stay in one position at the days end. This is difficult because I work, have a husband and toddler which all take my time and energy. Not to mention though I do have pain pills I am always conflicted on taking them because of my unborn child that I’m carrying. I’m slightly down because I should be happy, nesting and preparing for my child but can’t do those things I really want to do. And I feel guilty for relying on my husband to do so much now. Can I say I’m counting down the day till I can give birth and hope that I do find a little relief from that addition pressure on it! 7 weeks to go!!!

  4. Jen says:

    My husband had a kidney stone last year, he passed it in the hospital. A few weeks ago he experienced the lower abdominal pain associated with a kidney stone. My husband knew what was coming based on his previous exoerience and decided to ‘work through it’. That decision almost cost him his life! The kidney stone was lodged in the kidney it caused a hole in the kidney and an infection, had he hesitated a day longer he would have died from the toxins in the urine leaking into his body. If you suspect a stone get medical attention by a urologist immediately, or go to your ER. He has a stent and the pain associated with it. The urologist said if you suffer from stones. Don’t drink it if you can’t see through it. The oxialates in beverages cause a Ph imbalance in the kidney and chrystalizations form. Then stones. The worst beverage he said was Tea it has the highest amount of oxialates. The second he said was cranberry juice. He also has suffered from stones and had stents since age 19, he recommended water and lemonade, a diet that is healthy and has variety. High protein diets def not recommended. If you need support, please feel free yo reach out to us.

  5. carol says:

    I so appreciate these comments as I sit here a day after kidney stone surgery feeling pain like I have never had. My previous kidney stine surgery was a breeze so this was shocking. My do tor said my intense burning is because the stern has moved. AZO over the counter helps the pain. Mine is out monday and it is a relief to hear it’s relatively simple. Thank you.

  6. dgg says:

    I’m a 45 year old male. I had to have a stent placed in my left side on Thursday, 07/17 after finding out that I have two stones: a 7x5mm stone in my left kidney and a 2mm stone in my right kidney. I’ve only had pain symptoms from the left side thus far (fingers crossed).

    The pain from the stone itself was probably the worst I had ever experienced – until I went to the bathroom after having my stent placed. I thought I was going to pull the rail off of the wall in the bathroom at the hospital! Then I felt like I was going to pass out. The presence of so much blood in my urine made it feel like I was peeing a mix of fire and razorblades but the pain in my kidney caused by the rush of urine/blood back into my kidney was even worse. The combination was almost more than I could stand. Over the next few days the pain improved slightly but it was still very painful to urinate and my kidney would hurt to the point that I’d have to sit/lay for 20 minutes afterward. Then on Saturday, 07/26, I had to go to the bathroom. I had been told to try to breathe through the pain but this time, just as I was about to begin, I took a deep breath and held it thereby tensing my abdomen – almost like pushing. As I could feel my kidney tighten, I countered by pushing a little harder. I can’t explain the physiology of why this helped (I have a couple of guesses). I’m not really sure why I even tried it but I found that it dramatically reduced the pain in my kidney and made going to the bathroom significantly more tolerable. After reading some of the horrible experiences others have endured, I thought I’d share this breathing “technique” I accidentally discovered. It may not work for everyone and I can’t say that it’s necessarily a medically sound approach, but it helped me.

    I go in for lithotripsy on 08/07. My urologist has said I’ll probably have the stent for about another week or so after that if it’s successful on the first round. Then (cringe) I’ll get the stent removed and move on.

  7. I was searching the internet for “kidney stent pain management” and found this website. Thanks for your honesty and helping me realize I am not being a wimp. I am pretty pain tolerant, but the stent put in 3 days ago is far worse than the 10 mm x 8 mm stone I’ve lived with for 2 1/2 months. The doctor took the stone out with a “mini jackhammer” according to my husband. The attempt to use a laser failed. Now I am totally miserable and the meds only help for an hour or two. Thanks for being here.

  8. Cheryl says:

    I had a hysterectomy with pelvic floor and bladder work done last Thursday, the 17th. I also had fibroids and a very invasive mass that grew up and around the right ureter and kidney. In attempting to remove the mass, thermal injury resulted and a stent was placed. My pain has been mild with little to no pressure, until today (6 days later.) I feel pain on my lower right side as well as pressure, which increases with the urge to urinate. The doc warned me that all of this was possible, but I figured I had lucked out, until now. I wonder why my symptoms are just now appearing.

  9. Brenda. says:

    I had kidney stone removed and a stent put in, the stent was painful when in place and very painful to go to toilet. Had the stent remover but I continue to have pain when Going to toilet also go very frequent and after going feel like I still need to go. Has anyone else had the same problem. I have been back to hospital I don’t have any infection and they don’t seem to know why it should be so painful. Would appreciate any help anyone can give me.

  10. Michael says:

    Last Thursday I had a ureteroscopy with laser lithotripsy to remove stones in the left kidney and bladder. Yesterday ( 5 days later) I pulled the stent out myself. I was glad to be rid of it, as I felt as if I was being kicked in the stomach and back when I peed. However, about 6 hours later, I developed a low grade fever. My surgeon has me on cipro and has done a culture to see if a more specific antibiotic is appropriate. Still, since yesterday, I am experiencing chills and fever, and pee is a little slow. That’s due, I guess, to all the stuff that’s been stuffed up my urethra lately. However, I do want to say that, in my case, the stent came out easily with no pain. A little weird, maybe, but not painful. Stand on a towel when you do it because you will dribble.

  11. Katrin says:

    I had my first bilateral double-J stents 3 years ago, had them replaced every 3-7 months since and need them for the rest of my life due to metastatic
    breast cancer that invaded the bladder and ureters and caused total obstruction. I never had any severe pain, only mild sporadic discomfort (flank pains), Much better that the bilateral nephrostomy tubes that I had to live with for 6 months before they managed to insert the stents!

  12. Ambrosia says:

    Stent is in. In the hospital waiting room felt like a small iron hand is pinching my kidney. Got home to pee ( I peed immediately upon waking up – in a toilet, not the embarrassing bedpan) and it stung so much that I stopped what I was attempting and pulled my pants back up. I am convinced I have a urine infection now. I imagine they put an extra long stent in there, one coil in my right kidney, brought it down through my ureter, wrapped it around my bladder and attached the coil to my uterus. I think I prefer the 3 days a week of constant vomiting and level 10 pain compared to this. Lucky for them they didn’t give me one with a string attached outside the body, because I would seriously consider removing it. Dull, level 10 pain I can put up with. Stinging reproductive system area pain is a whole new level of I-want-to-die sensation. Have you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be busting after you’ve just peed and have an irrational fear of drinking anything? Get intimate with a cheap escort and you will understand what a stent feels like.

    • Patty says:

      I just had my second stent put in this morning. I’m a kidney stone patient with two attempts to get rid of an almost 2cm stone that is in my lower left kidney. My first stent was put in almost 4 weeks ago. That had to be taken out today and replaced with a new one after another failed procedure to remove my stone. At the time of my first procedure, my nurse recommended that I take AZO (that’s the brand name) Urinary Pain Relief Tablets. The drug is Phenazopyridine Hydrochloride 95 mg. It is a urinary tract analgesic that is sold over-the-counter here in the U.S. It causes your urine to turn bright orange because there is a dye that is put in it. The label also instructs to only take for 2 days. It helped me with the burning/stinging pain when I urinate. You should ask your doctor if there is something that can be prescribed to give you some relief.

      Please continue to drink plenty of water. In my experience I have found that when I drink more water my burning symptoms lesson and there is less discomfort with the jabbing pain from the stent. I have found it helpful to limit drinking caffeinated beverages. I am down to only one cup of coffee in the morning and the rest of the day I stick with water. In my experience, too much caffeine in place of the water causes me more burning upon urination and I will feel the urge to urinate with very little urine output.

      Hoping you get some relief soon!

  13. Ambrosia says:

    No stones. Was born with a major artery in the wrong spot. It’s put pressure on my ureter. Since age 20 I’ve had pain in my right kidney and then some. I’m 23 now. Getting a stent put in in 2 hours and you guys have pretty much made me crap my pants.
    Cheers from Australia :)

  14. Paul says:

    Well. after 3 months of waiting for 1 4mm stone.. all of a sudden, I had lots of abdominal pain, 2 stones, and bilateral blockage. Yikes. Got two stents, and dealing with some of the same as my friends above. I have to say it does hurt to pee, and its still red after 3 days, but the stent itself does not seem to be that painful. Don’t need any pain pills. I’m still a little worried about the lower gut pain and heaviness , not sure if that is normal. Calling doc this week. Its really still unclear how many stones i’m dealing with, but I guess I have to change my diet. I think its those darn peanuts. If anyone knows if the lower gut pain is normal, let me know, otherwise I guess I’ll have them in for a couple of months and see what happens. Thanks.

  15. Jorge W says:

    I was due to get a laser blasting with stent just this afternoon. My doc and his nurse both assured me I would feel little to no pain, but would have a need to pee a lot. My wife did some research on this and found lots of horror stories which made me decide that since I’ll soon be far away on vacation, I should get my procedure postponed- which I did. Now I am somewhat worried as I have read about just too many bad outcomes with stents. The flipside to the situation is that the stone has been lodged in my ureter for years and my kidney function in endangered. So I need the procedure, but am reticent about getting it done.

    • WillsMa says:

      I too have had a stone trapped for years in my ureter. I beleive 9, but they are hesitant to say, rather they just say its been there for years.

      I just had my first ureteroscopy on July 11/14, and it failed. I’m not telling you this to scare you, rather to share my expereince as it seems not many people (from what I can find) have had a stone trapped in the ureter for an extended period of time.

      The swelling of the ureter was too great and the risk of damage was too high so they left a stent in for 6 weeks (longer than the 3 days I was hoping for). I’m scheduled to return for ureteroscopy #2 later this week. I’m hoping things have improved and they can get the stone without returning again.

      The ureteroscopy while sounding dealthly uncomfortable and somewhat of a device of torture, isn’t. The pain following wasn’t bad for me (albeit i am a woman) and the most uncomfortable part follwoing was the residual pain from the catheter and the need to urinate.

      I think you probably made the right decision about postponng – since you were travelling – you wouldn’t want a stent ruining your vacation. The stent is uncomfortable. Initially it was only an annoyance, but as the weeks pass on, it is more bothersome. Daily activiteis can be done – although differently. Physical activity has to be reduced or you pay for it with pain and blood. You should rebook and have it done (I’m hoping its worth it in the end). If left it could be much worse – you wouldn’t want to loose your kidney. Just try and plan for a time when you can afford to be a little less active.

      Hope you are enjoying your travels…something I hope to enjoy (along with having another baby) once my journey is complete!

      All the best and hope they can get your stone all in one shot!!!

  16. Katrina says:

    I had my stent put in on June 10, 2014. Much 2 my surprise what was only suppose 2 b discomfort turned out 2 b throbbing, frequent urination, stabbing, pulling, and so on. I had cervical cancer in which I underwent chemo and radiation. I had kidney stones 4 as long as I can remember. After an ultrasound and passing stones. I was told I had a funky looking cyst on my kidney which was causing blockage. Like others I had 2 call the urologist 2 get a date on my replacement stent. I wouldn’t wish this on my worse enemy. I find myself not sleeping much, nauseated all the time, and sometimes sweating profusely. I’m glad 2 know I’m not the only one with these symptoms. God bless everyone and good luck 2 u all on ur stent replacements.

  17. Theresa says:

    Hi, I had a stent put in about 3 days ago now, due to blockage of kidneys! Now im not in any pain. The only problem is I pee all the time. Even with one sip of water. Does this go away? I try hold it in but it feels as if im busting,

  18. Suzanne says:

    I too suffer from uteral tube damage due to major doses of radiation back in 1989 for cervical cancer. I was told that I will be stent dependent for the rest of my life. It’s been over 2 years and I have already had 10 stents replaced due to blockages, crustation and dehydration. Supposed to have change outs every 3 months, but sometimes it’s only after 2 months. I would get pain so severe, I can’t breathe. That’s when I know I’m in trouble. I hate this whole thing. Wish there were stem cell options. Too many risks going under anesthesia every 3 months–not to mention a whole day at the hospital and co-pays! This was only found after I developed a kidney stone for the first time over 2 yrs ago. I had my last stent inserted in April and my kidney is now blocked (had ultrasound done last week). Not due for another until July–but they are leaving it in. So I walk around with this dilated kidney, drink as much water as I can stand–but cannot be out in the heat for long or get exerted doing things around the house. I start sweating profusely and it’ scary! My urological oncologist says that I’m a 1%er (will have to live like this because it’s Hydronephrosis and I have the chronic version–good luck to ya :)

    • Ann says:

      I have had ureteral stents replaced every two to three months for over 5 years now. I have two blockages, one that the Dr. has described as a kink in the right ureter. The doctors do not know what has caused the blockages but tell me I will have to have a stent for the rest of my life too. I haven’t met anyone else with this problem, so finally finding this site is somewhat of a comfort to me, although I am sorry to know anyone else has to go through this. I am wearing down physically and emotionally from all the pain, discomfort and continual surgical and medical procedures. Some stent replacements seem to work out better than others for me. It seems like one out of three aren’t as uncomfortable and I have less bleeding and spasms.
      I am on Macrobid daily and sometimes the anti-spasm medicines. I am limited on physical activities, especially because of complications from herniated discs in my lumbar spine that also cause the spasms.
      I am hoping and praying for a person to come up with a new and better treatment for conditions like ours. A doctor and close friend of my surgeon is actually working very hard to invent something for this condition.
      I wish everyone the best.

  19. Ann says:

    I have had kidney stones on and now for some 24 years. At the moment i have a stent in place and i seriously think i would rather take my chances with passing the stones naturally.

    After nine days the stent is not causing me any major pain BUT every time i walk, i can feel it in my left side rubbing. I cant do up any clothes at the waist as it feels like i am bruised and the area is tender. As a very active person, i feel disabled at the moment as i cant go out very far and im a prisoner in my own home. Reading the comments on this page i feel that i am very lucky in comparison. Although the stent does the job, surely the medical world can come up with something that can assist people without causing them so much pain, suffering and discomfort.

  20. Jessica says:

    I recently had a stent placed in my right ureter to facilitate the passage of a very small (2mm) kidney stone that had become lodged. This stoke was causing a “clog” so to speak and was causing things to back up into my right kidney. I had surgery and was told that having a stent in place would be uncomfortable as if I was having a urinary tract infection. Fortunately, with pain medication and a medication known as pyridium ( same thing as AZO over the counter) I had very little discomfort. Although they were right that is was uncomfortable, it was no where near the amount of pain I was in trying to pas the stone before surgery. Also, on a side note, i am a registered nurse andI have frequent urinary tract infections and the discomfort after getting the stent placed was the exact same. If you have more pain with it than minor discomfort consult your physician!!!

  21. Sue says:

    I am so glad to have found this link on people’s experiences with stent pain!! I just had a stone removed (3rd one in 6 yrs) and begged the doctor not to put a stent in. So here I am home from the hospital in more pain now with a stent than the stone. But of course they say it is going to be “uncomfortable” so my husband thinks I am being a baby and must be I have a low threshold for pain…. OMG. At least this one doesn’t feel like something is stabbing my bladder…. But the back pain is horrendous and worse than before. Doing everything I’m supposed to…. Drinking lots of water, using a heating pad, laying in the recliner, and I already have muscle relaxers and pain pills…. Can’t wait yo see how the night goes. Sorry to hear that many others have similar issues withe the darn things, but it validates how I feel and I’m sending my husband the link!,

    • Thomas says:

      I had a stone lased this past Friday with stint placement. The stint is really irritating causing nausea, pain, and frequency. I am supposed to remove it myself tomorrow and am looking to it with some trepidation. My wife said she is going to take the dog and leave the house when I take it out!

  22. Erica says:

    Had a stent inserted last week during emergency surgery to take find a “small” kidney stone. When they told me it would be mild discomfort I thought maybe it was just me because the pain was almost worse than the pain after my hysterectomy. I was in pain all the time and the Percocet didn’t help much. I had a heating pad on my back almost the entire time and I was only “comfortable” while lying down. The worst was that I couldn’t pick up my six-month-old daughter and I felt so helpless after coming home from the hospital.

    They removed the stent five days after surgery and I figured I was finally rid of the pain. Four hours after the stent removal, I was in the ER for pain that was as bad as the kidney stone and found out I had a bladder infection. Apparently the threads hanging out of me that were attached to the stent were how I ended up with a bladder infection.

    I wish the doctors were more honest about the pain and the subsequent complications due to the stent. Either way I’m glad to be rid of the overwhelming kidney pain. The pain related to the stent is an incentive for me to do whatever I can to never have another kidney stone again.

  23. Michelle says:

    I do not suffer from kidney stones, thankfully! But, I do have bilateral j hook kidney scents following cervical cancer, chemo and radiation. My doc had me go for my 6 month PET scan and determined that I had a mass in my bladder that was causing urine to build up in my right kidney especially but also my left kidney. So, after having Bilateral Percutaneous Nephrostomy tubes for 4 weeks, they internalized them. Placing j hook stents. If this is what doctors call “discomfort”, I do not want to know what their definition of pain is. The pain is more excruciating than labor pains and it’s lasted for 11 weeks, burning, cutting, pinching, contracting, stabbing agonizing pain. I take Norco 10/325 every 4 hours and Soma 350 mg every 6 hours for a neck injury and thank God these meds also relieve about 40% of my Stent pain. I was supposed to have the stents replaced after 3 months and I’m into my 4th month now. No doctors have called to schedule the replacement, my Nephrologist told me as long as they’re not infected we could leave them in. Yet, I’m worried about incrustation. But, I FEAR having them replaced and starting at ground zero again. I’m so happy I found this site because as so many of you stated, I thought something was drastically wrong because the PA IN that was supposed to only be “discomfort”. Well, thank you all for sharing pain remedies, sleeping positions and other helpful tips. God bless you all.

  24. Michelle says:

    I do not suffer from kidney stones, thankfully! But, I do have bilateral just hook kidney scents following cervical cancer, chemo and radiation. My doc had me go for my 6 month PET scan and determined that I had a mass in my bladder that was causing urine to build up in my right kidney especially but also my left kidney. So, after having Bilateral Percutaneous Nephrostomy tubes for 4 weeks, they internalized them. Placing just hook stents. If this is what doctors call “discomfort”, I do not want to know what their definition of pain is. The pain is more excruciating than labor pains and it’s lasted for 11 weeks, burning, cutting, pinching, contracting, stabbing agonizing pain. I take Norco 10/325 every 4 hours and Soma 350 mg every 6 hours for a neck injury and thank God these mess also relieve about 40% of my Stent pain. I was supposed to have the stents replaced after 3 months and I’m into my 4th month now. No doctors have called to schedule the replacement, my Nephew logistics told me as long as they’re not infected we could leave them in. Yet, I’m worried about incrustation. But, I FEAR having them replaced and starting at ground zero again. I’m so happy I found this site because as so many of you stated, I thought something was drastically wrong because the PA IN that was supposed to only be “discomfort”. Well, thank you all for sharing pain remedies, sleeping positions and other helpful tips. God bless you all.

    • Michelle says:

      Correction to some typos in my earlier comment. *Nephrologist jhook*. My computer is trying to out smart me and has caused several typos. I do apologize. I hope you all can decipher this darn message.

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