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

  1. Jamie says:

    I had a stent in yesterday. Immediately once the pain Ned’s wore off. I felt horrible pain. Percet didn’t help. Started vomiting from the pain. I went to the ER. Gave me strong pain medicine and nausea medication. Still hurt but not as painful. 2 weeks til my surgery. I can’t wait for this to be over with. I don’t have kids. After this pain. No babies for me lol. Never experienced pain like this in my life!!

  2. Rebecca Cullen says:

    This ordeal starting Jan 12th when I woke up with incredible pain in back on right side. I waited a while and then when it didn’t subside drove myself to the hospital. Short story is a 5mm stone in right urether…they sent me home to see if I could pass it on my own. Fat chance and the next day back to the hospital where I ended up being admitted and on morphine every 3 hours. The next day I had a stent put in and felt like I died and went to heaven. That lasted for a couple of days until I decided to do something. I’m so glad for whoever posted that exertion is what causes more problems. I had lithotripsy last Tues as the stone was still there after CT scan. So now on top of stent still there, I had reaction to dye contrast and have spent the last week itching. Of course the Dr. said it could be from anything, but interestingly enough the anesthesiologist was very helpful. Yesterday I had an Xray where the tech said she couldn’t see any evidence of a stone….yea she actually broke the code of somebody not being able to see their own Xray when they’re taken. Since, I have missed a lot of work , I have a cleaning business, for the 3rd day I mopped and vacuumed. By the time I got home if there was a way to pull the stent out myself, I would have. Thank God for the pain meds I haven’t had to use yet, because they are the only thing keeping me sane. Tomorrow is D day and the urologist who put the stent in will be the remover….or so the dream goes. What a nightmare.

  3. Crystal says:

    I HATE IT. Started losing control of my bladder so now I have a catherter

  4. Selendra Barefield says:

    I was given Vesicare to try out and prescribed oxybutynin days after my surgery three weeks ago. I suffered with pain over the weekend until I contacted the Dr.’s office and they gave me the prescription.

  5. Kelly says:

    I had a stent inserted 2 days ago and the pain is far worse than having the actual stones. I’ve found when I sleep the pain subsides but as soon as I need that first wee in the morning my god!!!! I dread going and now I darent drink as I can’t cope with the discomfort. Nobody warned me of the discomfort this awful thing would cause and no painkiller appears to work so I assume I have to put up with this until the 15th Feb. In general I feel sick and totally down in the dumps with no drive to do anything apart from sit with a hot water bottle..

    • Jen says:

      I also had a splent placed on the 3rd and have it removed on the 15th. This is my third experience with a stent. I find the more water I drink, the more comfortable I am. In fact, if I slack off the water I can almost immediately tell a difference. A heating pad helps, hot baths help, and pain medicine in general doesn’t do much. I am counting down the days with you!

    • Chris says:

      I’ve had a stent since the 13th of January and my experience is nearly identical to yours. I had almost no issues whatsoever prior to its introduction to my ureter and didn’t even know I had a kidney stone if it wasn’t for the xray taken prior to my appendectomy. I feel completely debilitated and demoralized. Its affected me physically, mentally and especially financially.

      I’m finally having surgery to remove my stone on Thursday and hopefully the stent on Valentine’s day. If all goes well a stent will never find it’s way inside my body ever again. I will never involve myself with a urologist for this issue and will be more then content to sit back with my Chanca Piedra and Lemon juice while the stone slowly dissolves itself into oblivion!

  6. Nora says:

    I had litho in the morning on this Monday the 23rd on a 12 mm stone in my right kidney. By midnight I had intense flank pain from a 5 mm chunk stuck at the top of my ureter blocking the flow of urine. Three expensive trips to the urologist for toradol injections and a different doctor checked for blockage yesterday, which I had. He rushed me to the surgical center and made time to do stent placement yesterday the 27th. Now it doesn’t really hurt, but I’m getting weird abdominal cramping and gurgling on the left side? This usually follows me bearing down to empty my bladder which occasionally causes mild discomfort. Oh, and the sensation I get now for a full bladder is the sudden urgent feeling that I’m going to poop my pants, like you get with a bad stomach bug. I have been getting cramping gas pains throughout my abdominal tract since getting home from the surgical center yesterday evening. I don’t feel like this is coincidence, but why am I having cramping on my left side?!
    Update: I fell asleep before posting and it seems that laying on my left side in bed puts pressure on the bladder end of the stent which causes it to freak out and cause spasms. After a good sleep things have calmed but I still haven’t had a bm. Things may change as I strain to have one. I’m thinking of resorting to an enema as it has been a week that I have been fighting the constipation.
    But on the plus side I haven’t taken a pain pill in over twelve hours and I don’t forsee needing them anymore! The horrible flank pain is GONE, the abdominal pain is GONE, the renal colic pain is GONE, and unless I irritate it I can’t feel the stent. This is amazing! I could cry I’m so happy!

  7. edward says:

    i feel you i have kidney stones 3 of them 10mm passed 2 i have the stent since aug 28 2016 was scheduled for lithroprosy first time couldnt do it cause the doctor told me was ok to take ibuprofen for pain that was canceled then another one was scheduled went to that one broke that stone up put another stent in went and had xray 2 pieces flowing down and one on kidney tried to use a tool was to short couldnt reach it now its moving to mind u ive a stent in aug til mow now in scheduled to have it rem feb 3 2017 this stent is the most unconfortable thing ive ever had and mind u this is kaiser permanente feels like someone is squeezing the tip of my penis all the time and the 2nd stent felt like i was pissing razor blades im a heavy mechanic big work every time i exert my self i pee blood and ive had several urinary tract infections causes of this stend so i feel ya

  8. Sian says:

    I feel your pain. I was taken in 6 weeks ago with renal colic due to a 7mm stone being stuck in my urethra pipe. They put a stent in and its been a nightmare. Constant need to urinate and it burns like hell to the point of where i feel like passing out. I dread going for a wee. 😣

  9. NORA says:

    I had my stent 3 years ago due to bladder injury during childbirth. My ureter main artery burst so they decided to cut and stitch. Doctors didn’t expect me to survive the ordeal but Thank God, I Did. A stent was inserted for 3 months (to support my kidney) and there’s no problem or pain while the stent in me. In October last year , I had a sharp pain on my right kidney and running high temperature. The ultrasound showed my right kidney swollen. So my urologist scheduled me for a surgery to insert a stent in December 2016. As I didn’t encounter so much pain previously, I just agreed on this. The reason was because he found a stricture on my ureter that caused the kidney to swell as it can’t really flow properly. Doctor said, if I don’t do the procedure to insert the stent, I might cause the kidney to fail. So I agreed. The day after the insertion, in the hospital , it was not so bad. It got worst when I went home. My genital felt like gonna to burst due to the pain during urination. The urine was dark brown and when the doctor called to check, he said that was normal. It’s been a month after surgery. It’s not getting any better. It’s so damn painful when I need to pee. I feels like going thru labor in the toilet every time I want to pee because I need to apply deep breathing technique to reduce just a bit of pain… It was really a disaster and I dread peeing. Less or more water intake was no difference. I am afraid going out from my home as every 5-15 minutes I need to pee and the output was just a drop or two… Paracetamol was not making a difference at all. In fact past few days feel it is getting worse. My next review is in February 8. My urologist will decide whether need to change a new one or just take it off. (Initial plan was I need the stent for long term). I don’t even dare to have sex as the pain right after going toilet was really beyond words can describe. I really hoped and prayed no one suffer like me…

  10. Johanna says:

    I had a stent inserted on Thursday, was never told about the pain,just told it wil be taken out after 7 weeks.i blame 12 mm left kidney stones.i feel like I m dying ,I can’t find a comfortable position. Please which medication can make this better.

  11. Eileen says:

    I had a ureteroscopy scheduled for January 6 to remove multiple stones in left kidney. When I awoke in post-op, I was told that after stent was in place the urologist went to grab a few stones that were impacted in left kidney and couldn’t get them. A piece of one broke off and the stone/piece moved and released backed up infected urine from the kidney, so he stopped the procedure. I still have the stent. My next apt with urology is January 24 and am told the stent will not come out then either (I’m disappointed). We will have to review the plan to go forward and laser the stones. I assume he’s keeping the stent in so that he doesn’t have to reinsert another when second surgery is done. But, now the stent horror story. I can feel it inside me and it’s more uncomfortable than painful. But, I have frequent urges to urinate and then when I sit on the commode, very little comes out. But as soon as the urine starts to flow, I immediately get a sharp pain at my left kidney. It lasts during the whole time of the urination, which isn’t long. I don’t like to take the pain pills during the day, but I am also on a bladder spasm medication which really doesn’t do much for me. I can’t wait for this stent to come out and more importantly can’t wait for this whole mess to be over with.

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