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.

 

1,749 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Linda says:

    Update – had to be taken to the er again this time from severe flank pain. I felt like I was being tortured to death. The er staff took me right in (thought this was a good thing) a doctor introduced himself and said he’d be right back. I had told him I had to pee. Two hours later, I pushed my broken wheelchair over to a sink in the room to lay my head down. I was crying over the sink and worn out from having pain that nobody cared about. It’s a hard place to reach in life, huddled over a disgustingly dirty sink in a hospital, in sheer pain, in complete exhaustion, with giggling staff walking by looking at me. After many bungled hours of inhuman treatment, I had my stent pulled and my ability to pee was restored. Then I was told ibuprofen was all I needed…they lied. I’m miserable in too much flank pain.

  2. James says:

    I just had a stent put in for removal of a 4 mm stone, it was stuck for 6 weeks and even though I was given a high percentage that it would pass, took rapiflo, drank plenty of fluids, it nonetheless remained stuck in the distal ureter and required surgery. Despite being assured that the stent placement was routine and only caused some “discomfort”, I knew better based on what I’d read around here. And boy am I glad I was prepared. I awoke in pretty severe pain, feeling like I needed to take the worst pee of my life. This part was horrifying (although expected), peeing out blood and a few nasty clots. But living with the stent is WORSE than the stone pain ever was! Every time I urinate, it’s like that god-awful renal colic flank pain all over again. Then there’s the baseline pain/discomfort of having the stent in. I’m pretty worthless still three days out from the stent. But, I will share some things that helped me in addition to the prescribed pain meds (make sure they give you a decent supply–you will need them!!!)

    Heating pad–this has been a HUGE blessing. For me, lying down and keeping still while keeping the pad around my flank on the affected side has provided the best possible relief (in addition to pain meds)
    Hot showers–the only time I’ve felt like a human being
    Having that terrible back-flow pain when you urinate? (This is from urine going back up into the kidney through the stent apparently). This has been the absolute worst for me, and I found that if I take one of those microwaveable heating pads and warm it up, then keep it pressed it on my flank while I pee, it seems to help tremendously. Before I was almost going into a full-blown pain crisis every time I urinated! Now, just be careful not to overdo it with all the heated stuff as I’ve almost burned myself trying to get relief, but used appropriately these things have made it almost tolerable.

    Like a lot of the others here, I wish I had been given an honest talk about what to expect with this stent… they act like it’s no big deal and it’s truly a painful ordeal.

  3. Christopher Gibbs says:

    I was all for the other methods of stone removal in my right kidney after months of just being given antibiotics by my G.P.s I finally saw another and had the the scan process etc. However during my first scan with the dye they told me I it was possible I had a tumour in my left kidney. So the right kidney got left as further investigation took place on my left.
    Thankfully it was not cancer, unbelievably it was an error with the dye. Anyway whilst waiting I then had to then go for a third scan as on the 2nd to check again for cancer they noticed stone had moved so they wanted to see if I had passed it. I hadn’t.
    So I then get told it’s moved again and although it will work the position it’s rested will make shock treatment very difficult so I got talked into the operation removal.

    They even gave me a scan hours before my operation. So I woke up to be told I had the stent. I’m currently in constant pain. I dare not hardly drink anything. If I drink as much as 100ml of water I need to pass it within 20 minutes as I’m sure many emphasise during this the pain peaks in the back area. It’s still blood filled. Even a dribble which is now a problem causes extreme pain.

    Now where I feel sorry for many others and to to illustrate a point here I suffer to 2 other major conditions and as such take 120mg of morphine tablets a day and 1200mg of gabapentine tablets a day . You think of that and I’m complaining of ” extreme ” pain. I’ve never given anything a 10 when asked how much it hurts this is a 9.5.

    Im so glad we have a NHS especially when you see the USA but I have some questions.

    Do I need all this for 1 4mm stone ?
    And the reason for my stent was my tubes etc are to narrow to get the camera up. OK , but I’ve had 3 cystoscopies in my life so how come they never mentioned they couldn’t get all why up?

    My thoughts are with anyone with kidney issues.

  4. Edania hall says:

    June 12, 2017, I had a lithotripsy done to break up (2) 9 mm stones in my left kidney and hoping the other smaller 2 stones would pass I the process. 2 weeks later I am in so much pain daily activities would put me down. When to the doctors for a check only to find out that the procedure was not successful at all and that my only choice was repeat the litho and keep the stent inside. I went back home with pain meds and so meds to help control the spasms…total fail. I ended up going to the ER and prescribe me tridmol which by the way works wonders but my urologist quickly told me to stop taking them…then all of a sudden jihad rectal bleeding, back to the ER I go.. Found out I had in infection and because of the meds I was taking it was causing me to bleed, again sent home with antibiotics and pain meds.. although 2 weeks pass by I ended up back at the ER in so much pain and vomiting all over the place. Infection in my kidney around the stent was the cause this time and because my urologist worked out of a different hospital she advised the ER to give me a different type of antibiotics and send me home. One week later woken up out of by sleep in so much pain I was crying.. The ER admitted me and I am waiting on a procedure in the Morning.
    Stents are truly the devil

  5. Debbie says:

    I was booked in yesterday for stone removal after having a stent fitted 9 weeks ago for 9mm stone and additional smaller ones.The stent for the last 9 weeks has caused me the most terrible pain and bleeding I have been unable to sleep with the pain.It has affected my everyday life.Thursday the Hospital tried to cancel the appointment and I saw red ! Cut a long story short the Consultant phoned me and the operation was back on Friday.During the operation they found I had passed the stones already and the stent had rubbed an area of the bladder wall and caused inflamation.There are a couple of comments I would make that all professional medical staff are aware of ‘the pain and discomfort caused by stents’ and yet the patient is not given full information to this. Secondly knowing the pain and suffering caused patients are made to wait lengthy times to have them removed and the stone problem treated.I had got to the stage I just couldn’t cope anymore and unless we complain we get ignored.My complaint was not with the Consultant or staff as they all work extremely hard, but with the system that leaves people in awful pain and that rests firmly with Government funding and local health authorities boards who make those decisions and hold the purse strings.I have already written a letter about waiting list times to the Chief Executive of my local hospital and copied in the MP.I have read so many of your comments today and every one of them tells the same story.Good luck to you all but please don’t sit back and take it …complain!

    • Zoe Cartwright says:

      My 22yr old son has just come out of hospital after a stent removal. The ’15 min’ operation took 3 hours and it finally came out in 2 pieces and was covered in kidney stones. The stent had been in for 7 months and had been causing constant severe pain. Despite numerous emails and telephone calls to srrsnge the removal he was left trying to complete his final year at uni with no sleep and unable to concentrate due to the constant pain. His operation was on Monday 31st July and he is on various painkillers. None of them seem to be working and he says the pain in worse now than when he was first admitted to hospital with kidney stones back in December. Because of the 3hrs prodding about, his uretha and kidneys are so bruised and inflamed he has had to have another stent fitted which they are going to take out in 7-14 days. He has had to have a deferral at uni and may miss his graduation with all his friends. There is even a chsnce he may hsve to redo the whole year. He hasn’t been able to socialise, go shoppibg withou help or even walk very far for the last 7 months. His stent should have removed months ago according to his surgeon (a different one to the one who inserted it). I’m not sure what rights my son has and if he should complain about this. Any advice would be great. Thank you.

      • Jan says:

        You can complain to the Health Sevices Commissioner in your State or Territory – a quick Google will give you an address. You can also complain to AHPRA.

    • karen says:

      Debbie I am so sorry for you ! I work in the NHS and I had similar experiences. I took my story to our Trust board and I am currently writing a patient information leaflet – warts and all about having a stent in place. I don’t want to diminish the pain of these stents- I want patients to know that they hurt a lot!. I have been a nurse for 30 years and nobody told me what to expect and I don’t want other patients to feel the same.
      I hope you are now doing ok and take comfort in the fact that you are not alone !!

  6. Kathy Johnson says:

    Well 💩! – I haven’t been worried until I read your comments regarding the amount of pain and dysfunction due to a stent. I have a 1.5, 1.8 up to 2cm, yes centimeter, kidney stone in addition to small one. Allegedly it’s going to take 3 Lithotripsy procedures and 3-5 stents. At first I was thrilled I wasn’t having a PCN now I’m rethinking what to wish for. Years ago my, then 17 yr old, daughter had a PCN which was immensely painful, she peed blood and urine out of her incision in her back for 3 long weeks. It was horrible watching my child go through that so I prayed and prayed for the pain to be for me and not her. In a way, half my prayers were answered. Is anyone else a heart patient? I’m curious just how much pain they’re going to let me endure. It’s not good for my newly repaired heart I guess. Good luck to you all especially Sharon. This is bad enough let alone being homeless. I hope you get to tell this as a sucsess story one day and how you were determined to change your life because of this.

    • Rich D says:

      Kathy, ” I share your pain” Having gone through this process, I’ve read quite a bit and have seen a number of responses and reactions from folks. I was freaked out too, fearing the worst. My take away is this: Everyone is different, your situation and potential pain may be quite different from anyone else’s.
      I was hit by a 7 mm stone about 3 months ago. ER visit, pain meds and fluids eliminated the pain quickly. Followed up with Urologist. He performed a Lithotripsy 30 days ago. I found that process painless, just a huge inconvenience going through the whole hospital O.R. thing. The litho broke the stone into 3 pieces, but still would not pass. We waited 30 days, took in a lot of water, but no luck. Fortunately, I had no pain during this period. I did choose to go ahead with a Cystoscopy and a stent to get rid of the stone for good.
      Back to the OR, a bit longer of an operation, deeper anesthesia this time. For the first 3 days at home I experienced burning pain and blood when urinating. The pain was bad but tolerable. When the burning and bleeding eased off, I began getting spasms in my kidney when urinating. This was a bit rough, but again tolerable. I did take pain meds, 1 during the day, 1 at night. Spasms lasted about 3 days, but since then only a moderate amount of discomfort when urinating. All of these are symptoms of the stent.
      I had the stent removed today. Took about 10 seconds at the office. So far so good, no residual pain. But I was told to expect some burning and pain as things settle down.
      I hope this helps!

  7. sharon says:

    I am a 60 year old with a “rock garden”. The biggest stone measures a bit over 1 centimeter. Yes! I said a centimeter!. I have had a stint in since April 18 and todays date is July 16. I have had three lithotipsys and find out in two days if I worked this time. I have no words to describe the roller coaster ride this whole trip has caused me. I actually peed 83 time in one day. I feel the constant urge to pee. Always.I am praying they knock me out to remove the stint ! The doc gave me hyoscyamine for “spasms” , I dont think they help at all. Nothing has passed, except this gummy black substance. Dont have a clue what it is. I cant imagine having this stint in much longer…nobody should have to suffer like this. It cant be healthy to keep it in much longer.

  8. Sharon says:

    I had a kidney stent put in 2 weeks ag for kidney stones. I’m in constant nagging pain , my side, lower abdomen and back r so tender even clothing hurts. My urine is bright red it hurts me to pee and I feel constipated cos I’m scared to push. I’m so tired cos it’s hard for me to find a comfortable position to sit or lay so I’m not sleeping well, even standing and walking hurts me at times. I’m nauseous and cry all the time. They didn’t tell me it would be like this, they should have told me. I’ve been homeless for over 3 years, living mostly in my car & on my own, it’s been a difficult time , but now it’s unbearable. How can this possibly be doing any good? I don’t even have a doctor or nurse to ask questions, the clerk just told me to come back on the 31st, more than 2 weeks away. I would rather die before then.

    • Dev- cancer survivor says:

      Pain will reduce with time and this pain wont kill you! I had a stent placed after kidney cancer surgery and yes it was painful. The thing is…think less about the discomfort it causes. It is tr for a purpose and will help you heal and is temporary. Tey to be positive. You will be fine.

  9. roger monticue says:

    I had a stents put in 7-5-17 and its hurts so bad when I pee and walk I took off work 1 day and run out of pain meds they told I be back on the 7-12-17 to get it removed out I hope so they will not give any pain meds they only give f 12 im never getting this done no more how do they removed it please e mail please thanks monticue2@selectemail.net

  10. Karen Lestochi says:

    Been dealing with this since June 26 kidney stone stuck size 12mm did emergency surgery, placed a stent in dont go for kidney stone removal until July 18 in pain and tryinh to work.

  11. Shaik says:

    Hi every one..
    I suffered with calculus in my right ureter..so it was diagnosed and treated surgically method URSL with DJ stent.done and my urologist advised me for removal of stent after 15days under General anesthesia.
    Now they have removed the stent but again they have put a stent.now my urologist suggesting me to keep it for 10days more..

    Pls suggest am not able to understand…y there is again they placed stent.
    Is it normal

    • Linda says:

      Had stent put in following stone removal 5 days ago. Have me one days worth of oxycodone. That ran out on day 3. I am in agony
      And, I drink a gallon of water daily and I am unable to pee much volume despite drinking so much. Yet I am being run to death to the bathroom to pee a drop or two. The pain and spasms are unbearable. None of the medicines they gave me for it works. My feet and legs have swollen up like balloons. My body is out of Control and doctors will not return my calls.

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