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

  1. Lejla says:

    I just had my stent inserted yesterday. Felt considerable pain right after the surgery in the bladder area. I’m okay (tolerable pain) when lying still. My bladder does give min to spasms upon certain movements. I’m on ibuprofen and paracetamol for pain. I do have endone as well to take as needed but I haven’t taken it. Lucky I’m having the stent removed 4 days post op.

  2. AK says:

    So thankful I found this site! My stent has been bothering me since it was inserted with my kidney stone removal. I am fortunate not have had any pain with the kidney stones i have had (one passed on its own a few years ago and the most recent required “removal” via laser). The stent has been driving me crazy – I constantly feel that I have to go to the bathroom and when I do its painful. And my back is killing me from the strain of constantly urinating. The only time I really feel any relief is when I am asleep. Stent gets removed tomorrow – so hopefully I am back to normal soon.

  3. PRW says:

    You folks are scaring me to death … although my mother in law had a stent last year and said it didn’t bother her a bit, and she generally has zero tolerance for pain/discomfort. But I’m in a position where I don’t think I’m going to have a lot of choice. I’ve got 20 mm and 10 mm stones … 30 mm of rock … sitting in my left kidney. They’re just sitting there, not blocking anything (although I think they do occasionally when they shift, plus I have periodic pain which is what led me to the urologist and to a CT for this diagnosis), but the doctor says, “They’re going to have to be dealt with.” And he says there’s no way around the stent, because as he put it, “With so much stone, the lipotripsy is not going to reduce this stuff to sand,” and he pointed out the ramifications of a wrecked ureter with big chunks passing. So I guess I’m going to have to suck it up and deal with any discomfort, because I can only imagine what the discomfort of a blocked kidney or wrecked ureter would be. Danged if you do or don’t, I guess. :)

  4. Vee says:

    Hi, Im 62 and had a J stent put in place 11.4.16 after infection from 16mm kidney stone, needing to urinate constantly. Kidney stone lasered on 12.5.16 and have another J stent in for 4-6 weeks. Feel like something in bladder constantly but Ural does help and panadol only if desperate as constipation follows. Another hard part is explaining to partner last thing on mind atm is sex. The wonderful news was they made the 16mm kidney stone like mush and had no problem or pain passing any of it. They have done both stents under general anaesthetic and when this one removed I shall begin to feel normal again. Again ,the laser worked so well with my huge stone.Remember to asks lots of questions of your urologist as sometimes the unknown is scariest. I wish everyone on site well.

  5. Maryle Kremer says:

    I have a stent in my left ureter for former blockage which is undetermined…biopsy returned normal thank God…however I do not feel any stabbing pain, just generally do not feel well and having some stomach problems….am wondering if this could be caused by the stent in place…anyone experience the same? Stent was placed April 6 and is to be left in place for four months.

  6. Sally says:

    I have had my stent for 11 days it’s in my left ureter as for it being there I don’t mind that, but the pain urinating is so unbearable, mine has too stay in three weeks…I had a 11mm stone stuck at the base on my ureter where it drains into the bladder, it was there 5 months before my family doctor ordered a CT Scan because I was getting so many bladder infections and blood in my urine..The urologist told me I could never pass that on my own, so I was put too sleep and my stone was lazored and he got it all but put the stent in so my ureter wouldn’t sweet closed..I just wish I could tolerated urinating without such terrible pain my last visit to OPD I had no infection just irratation in my bladder from the stent mine will be removed on the 27th 2016..nothing helps with my pain but I think I will try ibprobin maybe that will help better with that pain…Oxycodone or torodol doesn’t do anything for me..I will be so happy to get this thing out of me, it has changed my personality the pain makes me so hateful and all I do is cry..so it makes me very sensitive..

  7. JJ says:

    Hi! I’m very sorry about the pain you had to go through. I’m a 16 year old male, and I also had a pyeloplasty November of 2015. I had a stent placed in October of 2015, to open the urator before the operation. I did not have a kidney stone, but a congenital blockage which caused severe Hydronephrosis. I can tell you, it was so painful with the stent, but it was beneficial. At the moment I am writing this, I have another stent placed in because a month ago, I started getting the same pain that I had before my ordeal. The stent is even more painful than before, which surprised me because I thought I would get used to it. So all in all, stents might be very, very painful, but they are beneficial to our condition. Also, I got all of my procedures done by Stanford(PAMF), and I would like to know where you did yours, if possible. Thank you and have a wonderful day!

  8. Christine says:

    My stent was misery from hell for 8 weeks, constantly feeling intense twinges like I had to pee. Only comfortable lying down. Two lithotripsys after which I developed a blood clot, so Dr. said he was going to remove the stent. I asked if he was going to use a pain killer inside the urethra, and he told me it slips right out in women since the distance to the bladder is so short, so no. It was painful but I got through it. Later on I noticed in his medical notes, which are available to me on a ‘patient portal’ that he said he wrote he inserted lidocaine before the procedures, and drained my bladder afterward, none of which he actually did. It made me really angry, because he denied it to me, but I assume put it in his notes so that he could charge for doing it.

    The doctor who inserted the stent, arrived with a transporter to take me to surgery (I had not been told what the cause of my intense pain and vomiting was, even then) without telling me I had a stone blocking my ureter. When he told me he was going to insert a ‘stent’ on our way down the hospital hallway, I was terrified he meant to just jam it up there with me awake. Afterward, I assumed the pain was being caused by whatever instrument passed through my urethra to insert the stent. I had no idea it was because the bladder, detecting a foreign object, will signal the urethra to expel it. I was sent home with two prescriptions for antibiotics, no pain meds no meds that help soothe the spasms. I did not even know they were available.

    I must also mention that I was lying in that hospital bed in enormous pain from 3 am Sunday to 10 am Monday having been offered no pain meds. I assumed they could not offer any because my intestines were completely shut down too. It turned out the doctor had written morphine for me. I have a feeling the hospital personnel have written on my chart that I received them, and either took them or sold them. After the stent insertion, I was given pain meds, and eight hours later asked for more and was told I had one hour to wait. Later one of the nurses told me it was written I could have it every 3 hours. i assume someone had my morphine, either an addicted nurse or doctor, at the 3 and the 6 hour period. This visit to the hospital was utterly traumatizing because of the lack of information and of pain medication for this condition. When I was called by the hospital after the event to grade my experience, and doctors nurse then called to schedule surgery to cut out my two 1 centimeter stones, she responded to my complaints by telling me the doctor always prescribes pain and anti spasm meds and she doesn’t know what happened. I only found out such things were available when i returned to my own urologist, having ended up at the ER and then admitted without realizing my issue was a stone. My GP responded to my suggestion that they were stealing my meds with the confirmation that this is happening a lot. He was not surprised. Even when they nurse did shoot the morphine into my IV it seemed to take away the pain for 20-25 minutes. I have had morphine before, and it knocked me out and kept me pain free after abdominal surgeries and two hip replacements.

    The worst things about this experience were the lack of information, the lack of help for pain. It was not only traumatizing due to the pain itself, but because the means to help me was there, and the hospital did not use it. I am going to get my hospital records after my last lithotripsy at a different, good, hospital tomorrow, and see if it lists me as receiving pain meds every three hours. If so, I will go down there and raise holy hell, as nicely as possible.

  9. Mac N Cheese says:

    I’m a 16 y/o female with a 5mm stone causing an obstruction in my right ureter with another 5mm stone in my kidney. I have had the stent for only 3 days now, but it’s fairly manageable right now. I’m on flomax to loosen the ureter and another one called oxybutynin chloride, which is by far the most useful. It reduces any sort of twitching and irritation caused by the stent and is a life saver for pain. I can’t imagine going through this without it. Also, I am in Tylenol/Ibuprofen around the clock, but I have NORCO if it gets worse. Also, on Cipro for the antibiotic. Honestly, I feel like a human pharmacy, but if it makes these four weeks bearable then it’s worth it. Unlike most people, I did not get my stones removed with the stent; my stones are still there and will be removed when the stent is (so I will be asleep). Can’t even imagine going through some of these horror stories that I’m hearing about. Having a stent sucks :(

    • Brandi Woodward says:

      Your a lucky one like me. I too am on Flomax, and Oxybutinin. I’m 7 months pregnant with Polynephritis in my left kidney. I’ve had stones since I was 19, it’s no fun and I hope they figure out why you are making them. I recommend seeing an endocrinologist. I was put on a nice regimen of potassium citrate, hydrochlorothyzide and allopurinol (for Uric acid).
      Good luck.

  10. KYLE PARKER says:

    Chronic stones. I have asked the doctor to not do a stint but on this last one he said he needed because my stone has been stuck for weeks. If I would of known the pain associated with a stint i I would of left the dam stone. This os the most horrible experience of my life. Sharp stabbing pain everytime I urinate along with burning. Minor discomfort? I feellike I am dying.thank you all for sharing.

  11. Paula buchanan says:

    4 more days with this stent after lithotripsy for an 8 mm stone stuck coming out is the kidney opening. Stent has been a nightmare. Constant pain. Pain while urinating I expected, but the spasms are all the time and the broken glass/ hot poker pain intermittent. After 2 trips back to hospital they realized I should have been discharged with meds to reduce spasms phenazopyridine. That has helped a great deal. While in the hospital they gave me Torridal in my IV. After being in so much pain, after 7 days doctor called in a presciption for oral version. Why did I have to suffer so much if there was an answer all along to making this manageable. If I am told one more time that 90 percent of people are just uncomfortable I will hit someone. Apparently I only know the 10 percent, because 7 people have told me they had the same experience. So where is the 90 percent super humans…..I so agree I will do anything to avoid this again. I wish there was more realistic information given to people before this procedure. Good luck. 815 am on 5/10 this freakin thing is history!!!!!!!!

  12. 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 :(

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

      • Anna says:

        Nikita – I just saw this comment and hope you are feeling better now. The good news is that my stent became less painful after a few days and I had my second surgery today, all went well, and whilst I have another stent this one is actually causing what I’d call ‘discomfort’ rather than ‘pain that makes me want to curl up in a ball and die.’ Thank GOD. Maybe my body has adjusted and my ureter has widened or something, who knows?! But I”m sure as hell relieved. Good luck!

    • Latosha says:

      I’ve had the double j stents in since 4/25 because of 2 large stones one in each ureter. The pain and discomfort is annoying. My doctor also said I would be able to go back to work. Ha he was wrong, I’ve been off work now for 3 weeks and am filing for disability because of the condition I’m in from the stents. I have surgery set up on 6/10 for lithotripsy and stent removal on one side, then back again for the other side weeks after that. I’m don’t know how I’m gonna handle dealing with this much longer. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one dealing with this though, I thought there was something totally wrong with me, and this blog brought comfort knowing these side effects are “normal”. Thanks everyone!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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!!!!

  21. 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

  22. 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.

  23. 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

  24. 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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