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

  1. Kathleen says:

    This is my fourth time with a stent in the last ten years due to stones. The pain from the stent for me is nearly unbearable. My doc explained that some people have a little pain and some like me find it excruciating. Pain meds and limiting activity help me get through the week I need the stent, if I needed it for several weeks I’m not sure I could do it.

    What I found shocking is that my short term disability insurance expected me to be able to work with the stent in place. Crazy, totally lacking in compassion!

  2. Beth says:

    Stents are from Satan. I’ve had tons of procedures and it’s the worst part. That “discomfort” is BS. They are torture. They should be used by the military on our worst enemies.

    • Dana says:

      Beth. I couldn’t agree with you more. They are inhumane and ungodly. I’m also
      Pregnant, which makes everything even more painful. I’m going on 2 months of a stent now. Doctors don’t want to remove it unless something really bad happens like an infection or blockage.
      They actually think I can last 4 more months and give birth with it in. Sweet baby Jesus….I’m just trying to survive.

  3. David says:

    I’m a 46 yr old male. Sounds like I wasn’t the only one who was flat out lied to when I was told that “the stent will only be mildly uncomfortable.” I’ve passed many stones in horrible pain, and yet they were mild in comparison.
    This time I had three 8mm stones in a row on my right side. I was passing them on my own very slowly but the urologist said that I should get things over with by resorting to a stent. I’ve passed so many stones that sadly I am somewhat used to that type of pain. It was pretty bad this time but based on what I was told it would be more tolerable with a stent.
    So I had the stent put in and immediately felt worse than ever. Spent the next day in the ER due to a blood clot in my wiener. Now widespread pain instead of just my kidney. Pain killers are barely effective. I can’t hold my pee so I have to wear a diaper or live in the bathroom. I can’t leave the house due to pain except for treatment with someone else driving for me while I lay in the back seat. The stones are trapped between the stent and ureter wall and are now not moving. All attempts of lithotripsy since the stent was placed have been failures.
    I was in tolerable pain but doing ok and still working before I had the stent placed. Now I can’t do anything because the pain is so bad and I have to wear a diaper. I’m self employed so my decision to have that stent placed has already caused much loss. I am so angry for giving in to the pressure to have a stent placed.
    Long story short, if you are given a choice, don’t do it. Maybe there is a place for these things in certain situations like a collapsed ureter but I think they’re being thrown out as a quick fix for all stone issues because it pays well or something.

  4. Jiayu liu says:

    I was feeling terrible stabbing pains in my lower back for weeks (couldn’t sleep) and took myself to the ER to find out that I have acute kidney failure and had only about 1/4 kidney function left and a terrible kidney infection. Had my stents put in and have to leave them in for 8 weeks, I’m on week 2 right now and at first it was fine and I actually thought I was feeling better (probably cause of the Percocet they prescribed me and all the azo I was taking) but then starting yesterday I was feeling intense burning/stabbing pain on the lower left side of my stomach everytime I stood up. It feels like there’s needles in my bladder whenever I stand for more than 2 seconds but peeing doesn’t hurt :/ scheduled an appointment to see my doctor to get more pain medication to hopefully be able to survive 6 more weeks with this stent.. I can’t do anything but lay in bed or atleast be sitting. I HOPE EVERYONE HERE FEELS BETTER!! Stents are the absolute worst!!! >:(

  5. JD Warren says:

    My Urologist explained that no two kidney stone removal procedures are same (i.e. they are like snowflakes)… The highest medical priority on all such procedures is preserving the health of the affected kidney. It makes sense to me that recovery with stint in place will have no two people with the exact same experience with pain (i.e. like snowflakes) but a few people finding this site are unfortunately dealing with terrible pain…
    It is therefore very hard for any one of us of to advise what to do. My stint was put in 4 days ago after removal of a 8mm stone and I have only modest discomfort from time to time. In my case I sit while urinating and found that holding my stomach muscles firm reduces the onslaught of side pain that occurs while my bladder empties. I also take my doctors advice and drink lots and lots of water through the day and keep my body movements slower that normal to avoid any further aggravation.

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