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:

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

  1. Osama Khamis says:

    OMG! OMG!
    Fellow stenters, life is rosy, or maybe, just maybe, that’s the only color my eyes can process after my 100th visit to the loo today! Had my pyloplasty on the 19th, stayed under the knife for 6 hours since the doctor discovered some serious genitic abnormalities in that region, which led to a huge left flank wound. Ironically, the wound ofcourse got “post operative” infection. That translated into two more weeks at hospital, under hardcore antibiotics, re-stitching, oozing, etc…
    HOWEVER, non of that matter, the main problem I have is: I can barely move because of my still tender wound, but yet, I have to fly to the bathroom every 5 or 10 minutes since I can’t hold it, and I have to fake my crying out of pain by singing out loud so I don’t spook my little daughter. Oh yeah, forget life, I’m so fixated at my groin region, I’m contemplating moving my furniture to the bathroom!
    Honestly, stents suck, after all, they do look like straws, can’t wait to get it removed.

  2. Geedee says:

    Hi male 46, only looked in here to see if I can weight train with stent (day 5) thought I was being a wuss so good to see (i don’t mean that like it reads) others are experiencing the same “discomfort” !! Been through the full gambit so far “ribena and razor blades” springs to mind. Drinking water has of course helped I was hoping as time goes on it will ease more but looks unlikely until stone removed (and please don’t put another stent in !) weird tip I have found that putting a little pressure on my groin area (or whatever the part of the body is called “in between” helps the constant pain. Going to have my first booze this weekend hope that not a mistake … Roll on surgery , like others I wish they had just taken the bloody stone out first time round !

  3. Jill says:

    My 5 year old son has a 9mm kidney stone and had a stent placed on Friday. He was great Saturday and it has been downhill from there. He screams everytime he urinates that his kidney hurts and is refusing to take his pain meds because the tylenol with codeine tastes terrible and made him vomit so now I can’t get any meds down him. I feel like I was not well informed about how paiful this stent would be. After reading some of your posts though, I feel a little fortunate that he “only” has to have his stent in for 2 weeks before they try another ureteroscope. I try to get him to drink as much as he will, but he has put 2+2 together and knows how bad it will hurt when he pees the next time. The heating pad helps him, any other little tips that may help this time go by a little more tolerable would be appreciated.

  4. John Day says:


    My name is John. As a result of discovering I had a kidney stone lodged in my ureter, I have just had a stent placed in my left kidney and to my delight, I have discovered a cure for the pain which I would like to share. Step 1. Place your small finger on an anvil and hit it with a four pound hammer for two hours. It will not stop the pain of the stent nor match its intensity but it will serve as a minor distraction for a time. Step 2. Repeat step 1.

  5. Makayla says:

    Hello im 16 years old, and I had 8 stents placed in my urethra Im gonna say about 6 years ago.. and i’ve read where they should come out about 3 months? Should I be worried? The reason I had them was because my kidneys shut down. Any help would be greatly appriciated thanks!

  6. Michelle says:

    Since having my stent put in last Friday, within 5 minutes of passing urine i have the bursting need to go to the toilet and have been incontinet a couple of times when not near enough to a toilet. When i do go i usually only pass about a teaspoon at a time, very occassionally more. Is this usual or is it a sign of infection does anyone know?

    I can tolerate the stabbing feeling but can not remember the need being this urgent the last twice i have had a stent inserted following an op to remove Kidney stones.

  7. Amanda says:

    Hey everyone, I am a 36yr old female. . On my first stent … and OMG … the urologist lied to me BIG TIME ! He said. .like all of your doctor’s. .. minimal pain and discomfort. won’t even know it is there !! Yeah right !!! I have to have mine in for 90 days … then they will remove it … laser the 4 stones that were blocking the ureta. .. (which by the way I never understood. .. why just push the stones to the side and put in the stent ? Why not remove the stones THEN put in the stent ??? ) anyway … yeah blast the stones then put in another stent for another 90 days … I have been sick as a dog with this stent… ppassing out … vomiting. . Can’t hold down any food or liquid …super dizzy and the pain from the stent is ruining my life .. I can’t go anywhere or do anything. .. but the one drug they did give me was flowmaxtra. It helps a little with the spasms. … I was just wondering if any one had any at home tips for the pain ?? Thanks heaps. Amanda.

  8. Richard says:

    After being finally diagnosed with my 4th stone.
    After five months of extreme discomfort, numerous trips to doctors, a&e, and not having much of a life due to the medication and discomfort, I had my uretroscopy on the 19th March.

    The end I thought! sweet relief.
    Actually now the pain and discomfort I have been experiencing, especially in the first few days after the procedure, have been worse than pretty much all but two days of the last 5 months.
    The first day was burning razor blades when urinating, but I drank as much as I could and that thankfully eased, however the real pain then set in, I have been experiencing awful pains in the left kidney area every single time I urinated and with frequent urination and sore back pain I had little to no break.

    Thankfully my doctor called the consultant at the hospital and found out about “buscopan” which relieves cramping pains from ibs, bladder etc.
    I’ve been using this as often as possible, drinking lots of water, taking codeine and antibiotics and although it hasn’t eliminated the discomfort from the stent (horrible bloating feeling inside) it’s definitely reduced the pain.
    So a few tips which I hope may help fellow sufferers.
    1. I’ve found sitting was a tiny bit less painful than standing.
    2. try to get some anti-spasmodics I.e buscopan, speak to your doctor or if you can the consultant that did the operation
    3. don’t squeeze too hard when you urinate, try to just ease it out, it helps a lot
    4. wear the loosest clothes/top you can, even the elasticated waist on my large pjs causes very unpleasant and early on very painful pressure.
    5. I found the buscopan relaxed my stomach too and had painful liquid defecation initially, this has stopped whilst taking codeine but I may have to stop taking them if I am unable to pass anything.
    6. wrap up warm, layers or sheets maybe even a hot water bottle (not too hot) will soothe the pain as well.

    I hope some of these will help, i’m able to cope now but the first few days were hell and I have been very down and hardly any sleep. I dread every night at the moment, as I have to drink less to avoid waking up as much and rarely get more than an hours sleep before needed to go again.

    They should be removing the stent tomorrow so hopefully this ordeal can finally end and I can go back to a normal life.

    Good luck all and hang in there…anti spasmodics..a blessing

  9. So interesting to read all of your stent comments , BOY OH BOY do I know what you are going through I started with a tumour in the bladder [T2] then a couple of stents later my surgeon told me that the bladder was looking good , But the tumour had migrated into the ureter, hence further stents , [it couldn't be a stone it had got to be a cancerous tumour] The tumour has been removed from the ureter but left some laser scaring blocking or slowing down my ureter/kidney urine function , I am now into my 5th stent where I have had to go off to A/E on three occasions because I could not tolerate the stent pain, PARACETAMOL,TRAMADOL,AND OROMORPH help to dull the pain a little, any way the surgeon has agreed to remove the stent in two weeks time and I will just hope for the best , For the record I am a 74 year old male resident in the U K , The pain I agree has been described as broken glass , red hot poker and anything along those lines the most interesting when replacing a stent was , A TAME FERRETT ON A PEICE OF STRING

  10. Althea Frazier says:

    I am experiencing my first stent and was worried that something was wrong since the ‘some discomfort’ statement is not applicable to my experience. I am relieved to know that my experience with pain is not uncommon based on the comments here. I really hope this is not going to be a repeated process as others here have experienced! I am definitely not going to work on Monday! Since it will be removed on Tuesday I will not miss more work, but I definitely will not be able to work with this thing! The descriptions of pain, tugging, and burning are precisely what I am experiencing. I have to ensure I take my pain meds at the first sign the discomfort is returning. Not a good experience at all. The phrase necessary evil comes to mind for this experience. Not a great way to spend your birthday or any day. I will be glad when it is removed and will drink plenty of water from now on since they say my stones are small.

  11. Graeme says:

    I have had 13 Pyeloplasty’s since I was 18 and countless keyhole surgeries to fix my left ureter. My left kidney has above average functionality but it’s the ureter at the base of the kidney that caused the renal colic and also restricted drainage which in turn caused a number of stones of which I am sure everyone on here can appreciate the intense pain caused by both.
    I have had numerous double J stents, corrugated drains (complete with the external and very fashionable bag!) I consider myself to have a very high pain threshold which is sometimes my undoing.
    The last big op involved something along the lines of turning the bottom half of the kidney and making it into a kind of funnel and cutting away completely the troublesome top part of the ureter which after so many unsuccessful operations had become inoperable. (3 urologists later but the 4th fellow I owe my sanity to).
    This gave me about 10 years without further major surgery although I would still experience renal colic which nothing short of pethadine or fentanyl injections would help ease the pain.
    I am now 46 years old and have recently developed yet another stone, this one is small in comparison to others beforehand, approx 7mm and I’ve had a double J stent inserted. I’m now waiting to be categorized as to whether they’re going to laser it, blast it or remove it percutaneously.
    This is by far the worst stent I have ever had.
    All the others ranged from extremely uncomfortable to quite painful, but this one is constant extreme pain.
    It feels like my genitals are in a vice, my groin is tender, my bladder feels like I have barbed wire in it, my urethra feels like I have burning petrol coming out when I urinate and at completion of urinating my kidney feels like someone has poked at it from the inside with a stick, ejaculation was excruciating (so not doing that again until I get this thing out!) and most days I can barely walk upright.
    I am on 5mg morphine sulphate 24 hourly, Tramal (which doesn’t do too much anyway) and Endone 3 times daily. These really only take the edge off the pain. I would dearly love something that totally numbs me from the shoulders to the knees.
    Some websites I’ve read are obviously written from a urologists point of view because anyone who says you can lead a normal life with a stent has never experienced one.
    All I can suggest for fellow stenters out there is drink plenty of water, if you don’t you will be in far worse pain. I drink 2.5 to 3.0 litres of water a day even if I have to force myself to do it and don’t afraid to ask to be prescribed some narcotic level pain relief.

  12. Simone says:

    I’ve had my stent in for 5 weeks now. No idea when it comes out – I see a urologist next week to discuss what will happen. I had a stone removed while away on holidays, where they found 25 kidney stones! Most of them fairly large (around 1cm). I am very uncomfortable (i.e. in constant pain!) and unable to function normally. I have 6 children to care for and no family nearby. It helps to discover that I am not the only one! While it is a temporary condition, it is certainly a most unpleasant one…

  13. Sarah says:

    I have had my stent in for just over a month , I bleed every now and again I have been bleeding for a week now , is that normal did anyone else have this , please help :-(

  14. sharon says:

    I had stent placed on Jan. 20 to removed kidney stones in both left/right kidneys and I have to say I would not wish this on my worst enemy. I removed the stent today Jan. 24th and cannot go to the bathroom, I am in agony. I have had 3 large glasses of water and a dribble I feel as if I will burst. Nothing compares to this. I am waiting to hear from the Dr. to see if something else is going on. Mild discomfort, my butt. I am retired, no way would anyone be able to work thru this.

  15. Gigi says:

    Wow! I can’t believe how some of you have had pain with your stent. In June, I had my right kidney removed due to cancer and my left has been taken over by stones. I’m on my 3rd stent and luckily this is the only one that gives me discomfort. My back is sore, like I slept wrong and my starting to get these bladder spasms. I’m assuming it’s the stent since I can pass a stone no problem, my mother calls me a freak. One day, I passed 8 stones within a hour. At this point I don’t know if it’s the stent or the stones that are making me feel this way.

    • Marie Hayes says:

      Probably both! The stent/stones causes the bladder to spasm because they are foreign objects. And the spasms are the bladders way of trying to eliminate the foreign objects. Are you on any meds for bladder spasms? Like Detrol La or Ditropan. These help a little. But of course the bladder still recognizes them from time to time.
      Good Luck

  16. Marie Hayes says:

    I currently am the owner of my 3rd stent placement. I have had 5 procedures in shortly over a months time for two stones measuring in at 9x7mm and 9x11mm. After spending months trying to pass what I thought were small stones… Being a nurse…I am aware that most stones under 5mm will pass on their own with time and lots of fluids. However, I was not aware that mine were much larger at the time. One day when the pain was more than I could manage at home I went to the E.R. and was informed I had a partial left renal obstruction.

    I was scheduled for Lithotripsy a week or so later only to not make it before having to be hospitalized due to severe pain and nausea. (Funny how the kidney and its lil nerves are connected to the stomach and cause so much chaos) Needless to say, after spending 24 hours barfing my brains out over 20 times. I was able to strong arm the urologist on call to do an emergency stent placement.

    Now… I have had a stone before and a stent. HATED it the first time. But when you are facing pain and puking more times than there are hours in a day…Needless to say, a stent is your best friend. Since then I have had it removed only to have it replaced in a weeks time for the same occurrence. And although with each placement the pain seems more *tolerable*. PLEASE, do not confuse that statement with it being easier. STENTS SUCK! I think at some point after so many placements…{This is my third one}…You just get use to living with it.

    NO I CAN NOT WORK, I CAN NOT CLEAN, I CAN NOT COOK. I am not LIVING with it.. I am laying on my butt all day in the bed and DEALING with the horrible pain that feels like peeing shards of glass with every trip to the toilet. And YES… after two rounds of litho I am finally… seeing fragments of the stones. At least now I can face my misery where up till recent, I have not passed a single piece.

    Honestly the only thing I do to prevent so much pain is SIT STILL.
    I drink tons of fluids and stay on my pain meds as much as possible.
    I do not even try to be a hero to my family. For once in their lives they have to be mine.

    All meals, drinks, meds etc are brought to me if someone is home. I DO NOT MOVE IF I AM COMFORTABLE. Of course, I am not always home with someone here. When I do have to do something for myself… let the dogs out, make toast (that’s all I can manage to eat) or get my meds… I move like a 90 y/o woman.

    The pain is just not worth the hours you spend in tears after trying to get up to interact with your family.

    Wish you all the best of luck. I hate this…But… it can always be worse!

  17. Andy says:

    I am a 24 yr old male and have just had my third stent fitted over the past few months, due to a uterical stricture. The first stent was left in for 19 weeks, 10 weeks longer than planned, after the hospital lost my patient notes! It was removed with severe encrustation and ever since then I have been in severe pain and I am left unable to do anything, it’s driving me insane! I’ve tried all sorts of medication and none seem to relieve any pain. I am now awaiting to have the stricture removed but this is six weeks away. Anyone have any ideas how to relieve some of the pain I would be very grateful!

  18. Laura says:

    I’ve just got a new stent following a second surgery. Here are some tips I learnt from the first one:
    1.Drink as plenty as you can- you will feel less pain after your kidneys have been cleared properly (try at least 3l/day).
    2.Don’t wait until you actually need to go to the loo! The more pressure you urinate with,the worse the pain will be in your kidney. Don’t push it,just let it go-> that tip was actually given by a nurse.
    3. Try to sit up on the loo and breath in deep when you let it go.
    I hope these tips will help. I’ve got 4-6 weeks to go until I get my new stent out. I hope this will be the very last one…

    • Jon says:

      “You can live a normal life” Thats what they say; unless your normal life consists of sitting down and doing nothing all day long this is a lie.
      I have had my stent in for 5 months now and today it has finally broken me. For the first 3 weeks I thought that it was going to be fine and then the pain kicked in for most of the day pretty much everyday. When I go to the toilet it feels like someone is grabbing the ureter with a firm grip and yanking it down, forcing the whole kidney to attempt its escape through my bladder.
      I tried doing some exercise once and paid dearly for the following two weeks. Its the fatigue that gets me the most, leaving me unable to do my job as a teacher very well at all. Whenever a bout of pain kicks in, I am so tired after it has gone I cant do much at all.
      For 5 months now I have had to take 3 lots of diclofenac a day which worries me and now on steady antibiotics becuase I have had 3 infections.
      To top it off, a friend went into a hospital 2 miles down the road with a kidney stone attack and had it removed 5 days later; mine is still there after 5 months.
      Oh well operation is over christmas. They better wrap the stone when they give it me.

      Tips: Hot water bottles are a blessing on the kidney and like everyone else says, plenty of water, I drink 5L a day at the moment, by yourself a good water bottle.

  19. Steve says:

    I am a 54 year old male who has just had a ureteral stent fitted to my left side following the discovery of a 5mm kidney stone. The stent is very uncomfortable and I am constantly visiting the toilet to urinate through a ‘ring of fire’. I am currently waiting to go back into hospital to have a lithotripsy. To be honest nothing can be as bad as the pain I had prior to being admitted to hospital which was off the scale so I am thankful I am past that! Roll on the lithotripsy I can’t wait to be rid of the stent and this damn stone!

  20. Lainey says:

    It’s likely your bladder won’t burst Heidi, it just feels like it. Sorry you are going through this. I just had a stent removed after 8 weeks and like the others state, it was torture. Believe it or not, I had one put in just prior to flying to Europe. Like Bonnie I too thought the first few days were okay so in ignorance off we went for a vacation. Honestly, I saw the sights through a purple haze of pain. It felt like a razor blade in my bladder with each movement. It was dreadful. Walking was agony – and there was a lot of that. What there wasn’t a lot off were toilets!! I was afraid to drink because I would spend the next hour “hunting” for a WC. We were on a tour, so it was constant touring and moving about that I couldn’t get out of. I popped a ton of drugs and cried myself to sleep each night. I tried to hide it all day so as not to bum out the others. Almost four weeks of that before heading home. When it was finally time to remove the stent my doctor suggested leaving it in longer but I warned him if he didn’t take it out I’d do it myself! The relief now is fabulous. I likely need another one soon, but honesty I won’t move out of my house if or when that happens. The only good thing I can say is having a stent isn’t fatal, so what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Hang in there!!

  21. Mary says:

    I currently have a stent in because my doctors are trying to dissolve a large (1.25 cm) uric acid stone with medication instead of surgery. I’ve had the stent in over five weeks now & have been miserable. I had to go on partial medical leave from my teaching job because of it. I’m just grateful that I had that option available to me.

  22. christine11 says:

    I have had a number of kidney stents over the past year and hopefully will be going into hospital on the 27th September for the last part of the procedure to remove the last stones and I pray the stent.
    The last year has been painful, stressful and the feeling of nausea really leaving me in all that time. I force myself to eat and drink, but in the past year I have been unable even to go into the garden, because of the need to be near a toilet.
    If anyone out there has had this awful nausea please reply as I am beginning to think I may have something else wrong.
    My doctor put me on paracetamol and I have been taken up to six tablets a day until about a week ago, after I stopped taking it my breathing improved so I feel that I will try and stay away from this pain killer.

    • rose says:

      I have never had nausea with a stent and I have had my share of them placed. But I hate every minute of having one in. They are painful with movement, even if I am small taking steps to walk. I am careful when I sit or stand. Forget about doing anything strenuous. Even ordinary things like making myself a cup of coffee makes me move very very carefully. I have constant pain in the side that the stent is place so I make sure I keep up on my meds. And the constant blood in my urine the whole time the stent is in makes me nervous all the time. I hate the darn things but I guess they are a necessary thing if you are being treated for kidney stones or some other condition that requires their use. Good luck to you. Hope you feel better.

  23. Emanuel Calderon says:

    After running from hospital to hospital and years of pain I found a great doctor in Escondido, Ca, Dr. Rieffel. About a month and a half ago I had lythotripsy to remove a 7.5 mm. After that I kept on drinking about 8 or more cups a day. Also, I had 10 other stones that came out after the blockage was removed. It was painful at first, but then the kidney stone pain went away. The discomfort, pain, and the inability to go on with your daily routine such as working is frustrating. I went to the doctor again and he said that my kidneys were better and I felt much better about having to deal with the discomfort of the stent. I feel that is better to have the stent than dealing with the pain of passing the kidney stones. Also, not knowing the state of your kidneys is very concerning. Moreover, don’t listen to people that tell you that you can go and work with the stent. I tried to go to places and the bleeding got worst from the car movement. I soon found out that I could not go out if I wanted to get better.So, overall I am happy for the life saving procedure. I feel better after reading that other people have gone through the same thing. I hope to be able to change my diet and star running and exercising again. Just try to relax and enjoy the vacation, but know that your future is brighter after the stent.

    • rose says:

      I am glad I am retired. I feel sorry for people who have to go to work with a stent in place. I would probably be fired because I know I could never do it.

      Glad you seem to be getting better. Good luck to you.

      • Heidi says:

        I had a 7.5 mm stone removed today. I also have a stent. Yeah I heard the same words “minimal discomfort ” but it’s been nothing but torment since I got home. Feeling like my bladder is so full it will burst, only being able to urinate a tiny amount here and there. I’ve basically been sitting on the toilet since I got home. It’s midnight my husband is asleep as is my daughter. Thank God he was able to take off a few days at work.
        Right now I’m afraid to drink anything – feeling my bladder will burst and kidneys following. But post opt care says “drink. Drink!” This is a nightmare. How do you know it’s just the urgency of needing to urinate due to stent or bursting bladder ?

        • Vicki says:

          I also have a stent following stone removal. I time myself with going to the bathroom. Once an hour I go. I drink a minimum of eight glasses of water a day and still have a tiny amount of blood in my urine. Like everyone else, I heard ‘minimal discomfort’. Yeah, right. I stay in my pj’s all day because anything body hugging or close fitting makes me nauseous. Glad I’m retired as well; can stay in the recliner all day and wear my pj’s. I try to take Tylenol during the day and my pain killers at night so I’m not so much of a zombie during the day. But some days I just can’t stand the pain and take a pain killer. Doctors who say ‘minimal discomfort’ probably never had to have a stent themselves. If they did, I’m sure they would describe the pain as ‘tolerable pain’.

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