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

  1. Heidi says:

    I feel for all of you,I have had a stent in for 6 days now and although I had the same discomfort you all describe,it seemed to be getting better until yesterday when it really started to burn when i go.There is a stone about 2mm causing osbstruction and apparently an infection that is causing inflammation,that as per the head of Urology,he has never seen anything like that.A little scary to hear,it is staying for a month i’m told ,but my worry is it starting to burn now,when it wasn’t for the first few days?I am on Levaquin for infection and tylenol for pain. Nausea comes and goes.I’m really ready to be rid of this.have any of you passed a stone while the stent was in? What about physical activity,I have an upcoming trip for my daughters birthday which involves a theme park,wondering if i’ll be sitting on the sidelines the whole time :(

  2. Heather says:

    Oh, thank you so much for this blog site. I am on my third stone removal with stent placement, this time with stents in both ureters. My last placement was a piece of cake, but I am 7 days out on this one, and it has been excruciating each day (I also still have pain in my kidneys, in addition to the bladder/urethral pain). My take-home instructions from Kaiser state: “Most people can return to work the day after the procedure.” Seriously? Even with the easy one, I had to stay home for a week to recover and feel like I could walk normally. I am negatively anticipating the removal of the stent, however, because each time, the removal results in the worst renal colic possible and a visit to the ED. I am going to try medicating prior to the removal this time – I have tucked away a couple of dilaudid from another issue and am hoping to avoid that 10/10 on the pain scale pain. I absolutely cannot imagine full-blown renal colic on both sides at the same time!

  3. kevin lucier says:

    I would rather have the 6mm stone than the double j stent, I feel like I an being stabed every time I urinate, I have been in and out of the ER post surgery (04/29/2016) and the doctor at bay pines described this as normal discomfort…… if this is what they call discomfort I’ll take the “pain” of the stone back. I can not sleep very well at night as the pain is just horrible. Doc said they want to remove it in a week despite me asking if it can removed earlier. It is absolutely worse than the stone itself.

  4. Anna says:

    So glad I have found this website. Obviously it doesn’t help my pain but does make me feel a bit less alone and as if I’m not the only one suffering! I went in to get a stone removed from my right kidney on Thurs 28/4 but like a few others have mentioned here, my ureter was too narrow and it had a kink in it so they have had to put a stent in my ureter in the mean time before they can attempt the operation again in another two weeks on 12/5. I wanted the procedure done next week but the doctor will be at a conference so I have to wait two weeks. And after the second procedure I will probably have to have the stent in for at least a week afterwards. LIke others, the urologist told me that I would experience mild “discomfort”. I’m not sure what his definition of discomfort is but I am in excruciating pain!! I am taking strong painkillers and flomax but not sure how much either are helping. I’m about to go buy a heat pack which will hopefully ease things a little bit. LIke others, it hurts to pee and I am peeing quite a lot of blood. I literally can’t think of anything else right now other than the pain I am in and how I can’t wait for this whole ordeal to be over. I swear I will do ANYTHING to avoid getting another kidney stone so I don’t have to go through any of this pain ever again! The only thing that gives me relief is thinking that this is only temporary…”this too shall pass” (literally in this case!) Everyone I’ve spoken to who has had a stent said it was super painful, annoying and uncomfortable. However, they have all mentioned that once the ordeal is over you feel instant relief and appreciate life again. My heart goes out to all of you who are suffering…feel free to e-mail me at anna.rentschler@gmail.com if you need to vent!!

    • Nikita says:

      I feel your pain immensely!!! This is my third (forth booked in less than two weeks time) stent in less than two months due to a 1cm stone in my mid right ureter and ongoing kidney infections, and every time I hear the word discomfort I want to gouge their eyes out with a fork!
      I am only 27 and am in a health weight range, not diabetic and never had these issues before until February this year. I never want another stone in my life, I’d rather give birth to twins!

  5. Meghan says:

    In my opinion, Foe.

    I have had the double J stent twice and I agree it’s the same if not worse than the stone itself – if that is the reason for having it.

    The most recent time – this week – I was in the hospital 3 times to control the pain. I greatly dislike when the doctors then tell me this is ‘normal.’ There is a difference between discomfort and pain and anyone who has had pain due to a kidney stone probably has fairly good understanding of the difference between discomfort and PAIN. Besides avoiding forming more stone I also will do anything possible to avoid having a stent again – even if it means changing my urologist.

  6. Paula says:

    I had a ureteroscopy, lithotripsy, 6mm stone removal and urethral stent placement yesterday and also hydronephrosis. The pain is worse now then it was before the stent. Is this normal? I also have loss of appetite and was very nauseous today.

  7. cathy norris says:

    Have a stent now after removal of a 1.2cm stone and he lasered some scar tissue in the ureter as well. I have to say stents have to be just as bad as the stone itself. But I can say that I had 2 stents about 10 years ago and had not had the problem with passing little stones for a long time. So in a way they helped but it was horrible and spent that entire week in the hospital with pain meds. They don’t seem to treat the pain like they used to, so just bearing though it. Toradol helps the most. But only can take it for another day and still have another week left.

  8. Peter says:

    I am a 52 year old male and I had a laser lithotripsy procedure to remove a 6mm stone from my right ureter on Friday morning. A stent was placed in the ureter to keep it open during the healing process. I am taking Piridium (turns urine orange) and Norco 5/325 tablets (one or two every four hours). It is now Saturday night. Each time I have urinated since the procedure I have strong pain in my kidney. It feels similar to a very strong muscle cramp. I try to breathe through it to lessen the pain. I noticed the last few times the pain was more than it had been the first few times I urinated. And after urinating the pain lasts a little longer too before settling down. I called the doctor this evening and was told that what I am feeling is typical and may actually be a spasm of the kidney. I was told that Advil may do more to relieve the pain than the other meds. Of course if one had other underlying kidney disease they probably could not take Advil I don’t have an issue so I am trying it. The stent comes out one week post surgery. I am guessing I won’t really feel great until it comes out. I’ll report back on how the Advil is going.

  9. angie h says:

    Have my second stent in 14 years. The first one I vaguely remember but this one is HORRIBLE!! It feels like someone has a finger up there pushing on my bladder all the time. I swear I will never have another again as long as I live. I wet myself now if I cough or sneeze and am so embarrassed about hav ing to run to the bathroom all day long. I have it bc of a stone but I guarantee you when it comes out there will never be another one ever!!!!

  10. Alyssa says:

    I’ve had my stent in for a week now and luckily I only get pains here and there but the constant feeling of having to pee drives me crazy! In two weeks I go back to get this stent removed along with the 5 mm stone that’s obstructing my right ureter, then getting another stent to make sure the ureter doesn’t collapse. I’m terrified of the removal though. I’m only 19 and I already had a catheter removed because of the procedure and that was uncomfortable enough. I don’t want the removal of the stent to be painful, honestly, I don’t want to be awake for it! I just hope that this is all worth the pain and discomfort. I’ll definitely be making a change after I find out what’s causing my stones! Your story helped me understand what exactly they put in me and whatnot so thank you! The doctors didn’t explain much to me because it was an emergency surgery so this was definitely very helpful

  11. M M says:

    Hi there,

    Got my double j now for over a month and according to my urologist I should keep it in for 6 months!!! The cause is due to an obstruction on my left ureter, no stones or infection, still don´t now what it caused it; The first 2 weeks were terrible, I started to feel better on my 3 week but somehow after going back to my routine (Yoga and running) I am back to feeling pain and the constant urge to urinate. Can this be the result of doing exercise? Any comments are welcome. Thanks.

    • Meghan says:

      Hey MM,

      Good luck. I have had a Double J stent twice now and I have been told each time to not do exercise while I have it. Yoga might be helpful to an extent though so maybe cut back on the running.

  12. Chronic Sufferer says:

    Praying removal of the stent will be reflief Thanks for these posts..At least I know I am not dreaming up this ordeal

  13. Chronic Sufferer says:

    Thank you for posting all of these..I am suffering currently with Chronic kidney stones..I have had a stint for weeks..It did not seem to bother me but now I am miserable..I burn whenI void pressure causes me to pass gas (lol) Hate taking pain med but need to..Why it decided to act up now I am not sure..Dr. is removing stent tomorrow..I understand that you can still have some discomfort after stent..

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