What should I expect when I have my stent removed? – Updated results from a KidneyStoners survey.

We know that the prospect of needing to have a stent removed is a big source of anxiety for patients. While almost everyone can’t wait to have his or her stent out, not knowing what to expect during the removal procedure can be just as bad. To better prepare you for your procedure and perhaps relieve some of your concerns, we asked visitors to the website who have already gone through the process to share their experiences with you. The results of our stent removal survey follows. Thanks to everyone who replied and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Method used for stent removalHow are people having their stents removed?

575 of you have responded to the survey over the last 3 months that it has been up. The most common method of stent removal was through the use of a flexible camera placed in the urethra (cystoscopy) in the doctor’s office, with almost half of respondents reporting this approach (45%). 17% instead had their stents removed using cystoscopy in the operating room. 12% removed their stents themselves by pulling on a stent string while the last remaining 26% had their stents removed by having their doctor’s office pull on the string. Our post on stent removal describes these techniques in more detail.

Pain experienced with stent removalHow much pain should I expect?

Pain with stent removal by removal methodOut of a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain ever and 1 being no pain at all, the overall average amount of pain reported was 4.8 or a moderate amount of discomfort. However, it may surprise you to hear that the most common rating given was 1, or no pain at all, chosen by 18%. So while some patients do report a high amount of pain with their stent removal, many had no pain or only mild pain. If we look at pain by method of stent removal, average pain was relatively higher for those who had their stent removed by office cystoscopy (5.4 out of a scale of 1 to 10) followed by doctor’s office string removal (4.9), operating room cystoscopy (3.9), and self string removal which had the lowest reported amount of pain (3.8). However, these differences between method of removal are not dramatic given that the scale goes from 1 to 10.

Recurrent pain after stent removalWill I experience pain afterwards?

Recurrent pain by removal methodMost patients had no pain or only mild pain after their stent removal. Unfortunately, a third of patients (33%) did experience a severe attack of pain after their stent removal, including an unfortunate 9% who required a return trip to the emergency room for their pain. When comparing recurrent pain by method of stent removal, severe pain occurring after stent removal was more common in the self string removal group (43%) and less likely in the doctor’s office string removal group, office cystoscopy, and operating room cystoscopy groups (26%, 33%, and 33%, respectively). It’s not clear why those who pulled out their own stents were more likely to report a severe episode of pain afterwards. There is some evidence that taking a tablet of an NSAID medication (naproxen) before removing your stent can help reduce the chance of experiencing a severe episode of pain.

expectations with stent removalHow did the experience compare to what you expected?

Overall, 35% felt the actual stent removal experience was not as bad or not nearly as bad as they expected. 27% reported that their experience was about what they expected. 15% felt it was a bit worse and 23% felt it was a much worse. Reporting the pain as much worse than expected occurred in 27% of those who underwent office cystoscopy, 24% of those who had their stents pulled out by the clinic, 20% of those who pulled out the stent themselves, and 15% of those who had a cystoscopy in the operating room.

Would choose this again by stent removal methodIf you had a choice, would you choose this option again?

Those who underwent operating room cystoscopy to remove their stents were most likely to choose the same technique again (65% replying probably or definitely would choose this method again) followed by self string removal (59%), doctor’s office string removal (55%), and office cystoscopy (50%).

While we asked respondents whether they would choose the same method for stent removal the next time, not all options for stent removal may always be available to you. For example, your doctor may choose not to use a string if he or she feels that your stent needs to remain in longer than a few days because the string can easily get snagged and the stent might accidentally be removed too early. Secondly, stent removal in the operating room is not always an option because: time in the operating room may not be available, the risk to you of undergoing anesthesia again may outweigh the benefit of having the procedure done in this fashion, the costs to you in terms of time and money involved in scheduling and preparing for an operating room procedure may not be worth it. We recommend that you talk to your doctor to go over the best option for stent removal in your particular case.

Priorities as a patient:

We asked respondents how much of a priority certain things were to them as a patient with a stent. Being informed why a stent was placed was the biggest priority for respondents (4.7 on an importance scale of 1-5). Being informed about what was actually involved in the stent removal procedure was also a high priority (4.5). Being able to have general anesthesia was a moderate priority (3.1) while being able to see a video/diagram of the process was a lower priority (2.9).

Okay, what’s the bottom line?

Most patients reported an average amount of discomfort with stent removal by any technique. Many patients actually reported no or minimal pain but about a third reported significant pain. Removal by office cystoscopy was associated with more pain on average and removing a stent yourself by pulling on the stent string was associated with less pain on average. A third of patients may experience a delayed attack of severe pain after their stent removal. Overall, about 62% reported that the experience was not as bad or about what they expected but 38% said it was a bit worse or much worse than they expected.


Editors note: Post updated on August 29th with additional survey results.

About Dr. Mike Nguyen

Mike M Nguyen, MD, MPH, is a urologist and an Associate Professor of Clinical Urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, CA. He specializes in the treatment of kidney stones with both surgery and dietary prevention and the in the treatment of kidney and prostate cancer using the latest robotic surgical approaches. He sees patients at clinics located in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and La Canada, CA. He is the founder of the www.KidneyStoners.org website.
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308 Responses to What should I expect when I have my stent removed? – Updated results from a KidneyStoners survey.

  1. Kerry says:

    I had a stent put in after having blockages removed from both sides and the stones in left kidney pulverized ( why didn’t he do the right kidney too I have no clue). I can’t remember the name of the procedure but it was done vaginally with sound I believe. The discomfort of removal was about a 4 on the pain scale. But then the real pain started almost immediately as I started passing stones like a gravel truck. The bottom of the toilet bowl was covered in sand. Seems to me the stent kept the debris in the kidney.

  2. Lea Nava says:

    Just had the second stent removed today and my advice of your going to have it done in Dr. Office take pain meds first , I had slight compilation with mine and almost had to go to surgery to remove it , in rare cases the bladder may sick the stent up this may help every one but I put pressure with both hands and the lil burger decided to show just enough to get it out and because of this I’m having severe pain which could last up to 2 weeks ugh worse than having it in , that’s why I suggested taking pain meds first . Would I do it again only of last resort. Good luck and God bless 😊

  3. Adam says:

    I just got mine removed today and I can say it’s not as bad as I imagined it was going to be. I’ve had my Stent in for 3 weeks and I was in pain everyday so I was happy to have the dang thing out. Step by step it went like this, first they put some numbing gel inside the penis which stung a little bit but wasn’t too bad. The trick here is to give it a good 5 mins or so before they try to put the scope in so it has time to work. When he inserted the scope I couldn’t even tell he went in yet. He stopped at the prostate and explained that that’s where I may feel the discomfort. He told me to wiggle my toes (probably to try to not think about it) and he went in. Not gonna lie, that parts no fun, kinda feels like getting stung by bees on the inside but it only lasts a few seconds. Once they’re in you may feel a little pinch here and there but it’s tolerable. After he got ahold of the Stent he told me he was about to take it out and he pulled it pretty quick. It did hurt for a few seconds again here but as soon as it came out it was instant relief. It has now been about 8 or 9 hrs since the removal and I can tell a Hell of a difference since it’s been pulled out. I did experience a couple of painful urination (maybe around the first 3 or so) but after that it was no big deal. I just wanted to give those out there that are worried and looking this up a bit more of a heads up on what to expect. Like I said, it’s not pleasant by no means but it’s definitely tolerable and not anything as bad as I’m sure most expect. Good luck to everyone who’s getting ready to have it done!

  4. Carlos Gonzalez says:

    Good afternoon fellow kidney stone carriers. I am having a stent removal procedure done this week at the doctors clinic. I have gone through so much with this 8mm kidney stone enlarged in my left upper part of my kidney. This is the last step and I don’t know if I can take anything else inserted into my urethra. What should I be expecting at the doctors office?

  5. Kenny Teo says:

    The pain for the stent removal for me is rated 7/10 , the most painful is to removal of urine tube to the urine bag. Now i drink 3 litres of water a day to keep fit.

  6. I’m having my stent out Friday. As I try to urinate the pain is dang unreal. I have to lay down for an hr. Sitting is not going to happen. My question is once it’s removed, string, Dr’s office, will I pee and pee? I put on 4lbs in a few days!

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