All about ureteral stents

Photo of a ureteral stent

Photo of a ureteral stent

What is a stent?

Ureteral stents are soft, hollow, plastic tubes placed temporarily into the ureter to allow drainage around a stone or or to speed healing after a stone surgery.

When are they needed?

Stents are used for various reasons in patients with kidney stones. They may be placed in patients to help reduce pain from a stone, when infection is present to allow drainage, or when a stone is preventing a kidney from working adequately. Stents are also commonly placed after surgeries for stones, as in ureteroscopy, to allow healing and prevent swelling of the ureter.

Diagram of ureteral stent

Stent in normal position

How is a stent placed?

Stents are placed during surgery by sliding them over a soft “guidewire” which is placed up the ureter, which is the tube draining the kidney. See a video below of a stent being placed.

How is a stent removed?

Stents can be removed in two different ways. Sometimes, a string is left attached to the end of the stent. This string is allowed to come out of the patient’s urethra, the tube where he or she urinates. The string can be used to pull on the stent and remove it. In cases where a string is not left attached, a small camera called a cystoscope is inserted into the patient’s urethra after numbing medication has usually been administered. The cystoscope is then advanced into the bladder and the stent is grasped with an instrument and removed. See our post on stent removal for a video and more details.

How long can a stent stay in?

In general, most stents should only remain in for no longer than 3 or so months. If a stent is left in too long, it can form stones directly on it, making removal difficult.

What are the symptoms of having a stent?

While some patients with stents have minimal discomfort related to them, other patients will report symptoms that can range from being annoying to being severe enough that the stent has to be removed. These symptoms can include:

  • Sensation of needing to urinate
  • Seeing blood in the urine
  • Bladder spasms
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Pain in the back during urination or when moving
  • Pain in the bladder

Is there anything that can help reduce the discomfort of a stent?

Different medications may be given to help reduce the discomfort of a stent. The most effective appears to be those from the alpha blocker class of medications including tamsulosin (Flomax) and Alfuzosin (Uroxatral). Other types of medications commonly given for stent discomfort, such as oxybutynin (Ditropan) or phenazopyridine (Pyridium), do not appear to be successful at reducing stent related discomfort in placebo controlled studies.  Traditional pain medications are also less successful at reducing stent discomfort.

Hasn’t anyone come up with a better stent?

Research into improving stent designs will hopefully reduce the discomfort associated with them. Innovative stent designs currently being tested include stents embedded with medications to reduce discomfort and stents that dissolve by themselves.

 

1,494 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Gen says:

    I had a stent put in two weeks ago. I have a stone that is approximately 30 mm. The urologist told me that it will have to be removed through an incision in my back. It would have been removed by now but I have double pneumonia and the procedure can’t be done until I’m well. The pain from the stone was the worst pain I have ever been in. With that said, the stent is about to drive me to lose my sanity. All I do every 15 to 30 minutes is urinate or feel like I have to. I’m totally sleep deprived from having this stent in. If I could yank it out myself I would! Fortunately, I see the urologist this week to schedule the procedure to remove the stone. I hope I never get a stone again in my life…I would rather give birth again (and I did natural childbirth) !

  2. Sarmas says:

    I just had a kidney stone removal and i am getting hiccups like alot..

  3. Sarmas says:

    So i had my stone removed today in ottawa, canada. The stone removed was 4-5mm and they left a stent in the ureteral tube. How does it take for a person to capable to go to work?
    Oh p.s. it was an internal surgery no stitches or bruises

  4. Carol Alves says:

    I have a stricture in my rt ureter and have had one stent 2 years ago. After 3 UTIs, with quite a bit of pain, I went to ER and was admitted over night. Had a renal scan, second one in 3months. My hydronephrosis has gotten worse so my urologist is planning another surgery to take another look at what is going on.Will probably have another stent. My surgery is planned for Dec. 1 and I hope to be recovered by the end of Jan. when I have a trip planned to go to Israel.Wish me luck.

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