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

  1. michelle says:

    I HATE the stents. they are very uncomfortable and I feel like I am peeing all the time. I had them for 3 weeks now and I have another 2 weeks to go and sometimes I feel like crying cause I really don’t want them. I am on my feet all day at work and it is so bad. it might not be bad if I didn’t have to walk all day, but I have to work. it really sucks.

  2. Toni says:

    I am experiencing my second bout with kidney stones too large to pass. A few years ago my first stent experience after laser break-up of the stone was uncomfortable, but the greater horror was sudden onset of complete incontinence after a few days. I had received no information about how the stent would feel or warning about the possibility of incontinence, nor did I get any sympathy or offer of medication when I called the urologist’s office in a panic, and I was MAD. Thankfully, removal of the stent resolved the problem immediately, but I lived in fear of a repeat for the next few years. The stent I have now was placed in the hospital after a stone push-back last week due to bad infection. I am scheduled for lithotripsy next week. This time I have received medication to control the bladder spasms, first oxybutynin and now flomax. The oxybutynin made my mouth so dry I could barely talk. I teach junior high school and cannot relax in a recliner, but I am doing most of my teaching while seated, which definitely cramps my style. Any time on my feet leads to increasing discomfort — pinching, cramping and burning, and urinary urge, not in the side or kidney, but definitely in the lower bladder, where the stent is not even supposed to be. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like a tampon that is misplaced with no possibility of adjustment, and most women understand that immediately. Seated or lying down I can be comfortable, but certainly negative effect on quality of life. Can’t wait to get it out!

  3. Ann says:

    I had a stent for 9 days post-op ureteroscopy to remove a 5 mm stone in my right distal ureter. Thankfully, I didn’t have kidney pain as a result of the stone, only the other urinary symptoms of a kidney stone – urgency, bladder irritation, burning, etc. By the time I had surgery, my symptoms were annoying but manageable. I didn’t experience real pain until a few hours after the surgery (after the pain meds from the surgery wore off). I have to say I felt worse post-stent and pre-stent. Most of the pain felt localized in the bladder and urethra, and I managed it with Vicodin and AZO. Thank God for AZO. The stent pain and discomfort greatly subsided by day 3, however, and by the time of my stent removal on day 9 I was doing totally fine. My body seemed to adjust to the stent, and I only felt some pressure in the bladder making me feel like I had to go to the bathroom, but the pressure wasn’t severe. By the way, the stent removal procedure was a piece of cake. It was fast and didn’t hurt. About 4 hours after the removal, I got painful kidney spasms and it burned when I went to the bathroom, but I felt much better after taking Vicodin, and by morning, I was totally fine and back to pre-stone normal.

  4. Kirin says:

    Knowing that I’m not alone is just great. I have no family members that i could turn to for advice on how to deal the pain or whats normal and not. I had this stent since 31st may this year and they are going to remove it somewhere in september or october 31st. It isn’t easy for me as i am also 5 months pregnant now. The pressure from the baby makes everything much more worser. I have anxiety attack every now and then when it comes to going out. I just lock myself at home now cause i can’t handle the pain outside furthermore i have a 10 month old baby to look after too since my husband has been busy working for us. When they say they remove the stent, are they not going to insert anymore stents later on? Cause i can’t live with this 1 cm stone. And those with stent, can we give birth normally?

    • Toni says:

      After reading about your situation, I feel like a whiner. My prayers are with you as you deal with this long-term situation. Wishing you all the best during the remainder of your pregnancy.

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  6. Eileen says:

    Hi I have two stents because my tubes are closing due to past radiation so stents are needed lifetime. This has been going on for three years. Yes there is pain and you are tired but I push through it as I have no choice. I do lie down on and off during the day but still walk the park work for n the yard and volunteer at the Reagan library. It’s not the best situation it also is uncomfortable but I stay positive and know that this is lifetime for me. Dont put a limit on the amount of comfort you can bare.

    • Kevin says:

      Eileen-

      I was wondering what sort of radiation you’re referring to. This is not for me, but for my wife. She’s 36 and had thyroid cancer years ago. She’s undergone radiation treatments in the past and is currently dealing with weak urination. We are trying to identify the cause of this and are looking at IC and other possible causes. She had a stent during pregnancy, but that was over 8 years ago. Wondering if complications from that could cause ureter constriction?

  7. newnursejoy says:

    Since March I have had 4 OP surgeries for what started as a very small stone in my right ureter that was obstructing the ureter and causing right kidney to be swollen – all this according to CT done in ER. The stone was lazered the first time but continued to have pain after stent removed so KUB showed a stricture in ureter caused by scar tissue. OP surgery #3 resulted in displaced stent so it had to be reinserted. The 4th surgery done June 1 with 6 week post OP stent. I have about another week but not sure if I can stand it. This has been the most painful, debilitating experience. I have not been able to work since the 3rd surgery when an incision was made for stricture. I have had anxiety and palpitations that has probably been afib at times. Like others have commented, my urologist did not prepare me for these symptoms and has seemed so unconcerned about situation. I think the fact that it took 4 surgeries to correct made me feel the urologist was more about quantity rather than quality. Do others experience anxiety with stents and how do you manage it?

    • Karen says:

      I understand your anxiety….the only way I could manage the stress was to deal head-on with the pain knowing it was only short term. I have had five stents placed within the last three years due to stones and a right UPJ obstruction. I went through laser and pyeloplasty procedures to ultimately having a robotic surgery to cut away the obstruction. The urologist re-attached the healthy tissue in the ureter. Unfortunately, that surgery has not hold so, I am heading down that road again to try to preserve my kidney function for as long as I can.
      I am a nurse and have to be on my feet all day long. I could barely manage the day walking and pushing patients on stretchers. The spasms were awful and medications to minimize the spasms did not help. I am becoming anxious about repeating these procedures but I am more fearful of losing my kidney which my urologist told me will eventually happen. I just try to keep a positive attitude knowing there is nothing else that can be done.

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