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.

 

1,316 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Evelyn Jonas says:

    The day before Easter, I woke up with mind numbing pain on my left side. The ER doc said it sounded like a stone, gave me IV pain meds, worked like a charm, by the time I made it to cat-scan the stone passed.
    Fast forward, June 1st, again excessive pain in left side, ER, told what happened before, pain meds in IV, no help, pain still bad, I was admitted with 3.5 stone in left kidney. Also had kidney, bladder, and urinary tract infection, all at same time.
    Doc said he had to put stent in to drain infection before he could remove stone, because the stone was holding the infection in the kidney, if he removed the stone the infection could spread to other organs.
    During the surgery the DR. found several small stones in the right kidney also, so now I have 2 stents one in each kidney.
    While in hospital I was given morphine, with no results, I accused the nurses of taking my morphine for themselves, and giving me sugar pills.
    I also had a catheter, and when that was removed the pain reduced by 75%.
    After coming home I was given a bladder numbing medicine which helped.
    I was told by the surgeon that I was to get the stents out within one week, and the stones out within the next week. I called his office and was told the soonest appointment was July 15th, when I explained what the surgeon said about one week the nurse said “you are not getting the stents removed, this is just an appointment.”
    I was worried about the length of time in getting them removed, but reading some of your comments has helped. Thanks!!

  2. Imran says:

    I had removed a stone on 7th of June and the doctor put a stent, however it was removed on 16th of June. Today is 21 of June and sometimes I have blood in my urine. I am very worried I don’t know is it normal or there is any problem.

  3. Lauren says:

    I had my first surgery on the 9th. Dr said he couldn’t find my stone so it must have passed. It was 4mm. ( It should have passed already, went to ER a month before but nothing got better so went to urologist) anyways a stent was placed and he said we could take it out 2 days later. My hubby removed it for me. It was very uncomfortable while in. When removed I had no pain and felt so much better. 30 minutes later I was hunched over in the worst pain ever. Had tons of blood in my urine as well. Went to ER later that night because I couldn’t take it anymore. They gave my IV fluids and pain meds to control the pain. I was throwing up uncontrollably because of the pain. That ER doc said it was spasms and said how awful kidney stone treatment was and that it wasn’t much better than having the stone itself. Yea, no kidding. He didn’t want to do another CT scan because of radiation. So they sent me home. Next day woke up screaming and crying. Did that for 2 more days. I knew something wasn’t right. Had hubby call and complain because they weren’t listening to me. He got me back in Dr that day and I had a stat CT scan and wouldn’t you know it was still there!!! Along with my others. So he said he had to go back in. I was petrified!!! He admitted me and got my pain under control after me fighting with nurses and not believing my pain either! Had 2nd surgery the 15th and got stone out and placed another stent. My flank pain is so much better. I still am so uncomfortable with this stent in and it hurts and burns to urinate still. Stent comes out tomorrow and I’m so excited and scared at the same time. I don’t want to feel that pain again ever!!! Not to mention have another surgery within a week. That was awful and how do you just miss it???? Doc swore up and down this had never happened before. Idk but it still is awful and can’t wait for it to be over!

    • Affira says:

      OMG. Reading yours just made me remember mine. I got first surgery done on 11th and they out the stent in. I was so much better that no pain and was excited to go home next day. In morning the nurse came to pull out my urine pipe and she pulled the stent out as well. I mean how could she not have seen or noticed the black thread hanging in there. The doc eventually removed it. Before I could be discharged had the same awful pain as you discribed. I was not eating drinking and no medicitaion or IV was touching me. after 2 days they did my second surgery. I swear I have never seen so much pain in my life. I can’t even discribe it. I fee you.
      Now they want to remove it on 22 and I don’t know how to feel about it. I just can’t go through that again.

  4. Jay says:

    I am 23 years old and have had a stent in for approx 11 weeks now.
    I had hydronephrosis due to narrowing on my right ureter. Previously has ureteric reimplantation due to reflux when 10 months old. Dr tried to apply stent through cystoscopy but could not find entry to right ureter in bladder. Managed to apply stent through antegrade ureteric procedure along with nephrostomy. At present I still have 5mm stone in kidney and waiting lithotripcy appointment. Pain is still quite bad in right loin region and also experience similar symptoms of pain during urination, peeing blood, bladder spasms, frequency and urge to urinate, stabbing pain etc. If post lithortripcy and passing of stone does not ease my pain I have been given the serious option of having my kidney removed as it is a poor functioning kidney working at 23%. Has anyone experienced anything similar or could offer me some advice. Thanks.

    • christina says:

      Yes my husband is going tomorrow to get the same thing done and his kidney is at 15-5% a lot of doctors say it has to be removed but the surgent is trying to save his kidney, so they’re going to try this first to see if the kidney can come up to 25% then they can rebuild it.

      • lve had kidney stones removed since August 15mm-17mm & lve had stents fitted to both kidney,s & removed l found them absolutely hell to Live with,just discharged again from hospital have had my left kidney stent removed.very painfull lots of blood,l felt depressed & lost energy&very weak,they told me if Ureteric tube was damaged they,d remove the kidney,Luckily yesterday they removed the stent& small fragments of the stone was Lasered.l feel totally human again.its not a very pleasant experience,those that are suffering,you have my sympathy,

    • Luna says:

      I was born with one kidney. Due to 3Rd degree of hydronephrosis and recurrent UTIs, in order to avoid complete kidney damage, 3 weeks ago I had pielography and stent applied to my single kidney. 2 days after surgery my single kidney blocked and got a hydronephrosis again. 1 week later stent was changed to a larger one that i will keep for 6 months; I have been told that kidney will be completely functional from now on. This is 3rd week post surgery, I still have a urinary catheter to avoid infections, taking 2 antibiotics and lots of pain meds. Having bladder discomfort, but not sure if it’s because of the catheter or the stent, also mild kidney pain. Not sure about exact prognosis as patient education is not doctor’s priority.

    • Richard says:

      How do you know what percent your kidney working ah

  5. Lisa says:

    I had a stent placed for 5 days after my 5mm stone lasered off. I wasn’t as uncomfortable as read other people where, I almost opted not to put it in because
    I was so skeptical! Everybody is different, thats why im posting this, without it i wouldve emded up in the ER. Per dr. I was uncomfortable but not horrible, I caught pieces left over from the lasering. I couldnt do much bending. Siting and laying down mostly, 5 days later, stent came out, very apprensive again from what i read but miracoulisly I had no problems, no pain, no bleeding, I was very grateful! The next day , I was able to travel, still expecting something to happen, I was relieved. Still going strong! I see my uro in 2 wks to go over my results from the stone and put me on a diet. He said on the mean time drink lots of lemonade.! The acid changes the ph in the stone and helps dissolve them. I have multiple stones in both kidneys, so I am going to try lemon essential oil, in a capsule, much more concentrated ,too much lemon can hurt your teeth, from lemonade! I’ll keep you updated!

  6. Nomthi says:

    I went for laparoscopy on the 3/6/16 for kidney stone removal and it was successful. Now I have a stent which is due to be removed on the 1/7/16 my problem i urinate often small amounts of urine too red and i am worried

  7. Claude says:

    I am 42 yrs old. Had a stent placed 5 days ago due to 2.5cm stone in kidney and 1 cm stone blocking between ureter and bladder. Doctor performed laser lithotripsy on the stone blocking the ureter and was told that I will need to have shockwave procedure for the 2.5 stone after 3 months. As everyone here experienced, peeing on the first 3 days was extremely painful in both my left back side and urethra even when taking pain reliever so I stopped taking them. Pain slightly subsided on the 3rd day. On the 4th day, some small amount stones passed when urinating and blood was very visible with much more pain. On the 5th day, pain would occasionally felt in the morning during involuntary erection and would always rushed to pee and much pain will be felt in urethra (prostate area) and left back side while urinating and blood would come out on the last pee drop. Today is the 6th day and pain slightly subsided again during urination and no blood were seen but there were discoloration in pee probably due to small amount of blood mixed in the urine.

    Helpful advice: drinking lots of water helps, dont be afraid to pee as water helps flush out toxic mixture of urine and blood. Peeing is paintfull and scary most of the time but it will help you recover soonest. Pain will get worst if you are dehydrated. Take your medicines but if your pain reliever doesn’t work, stop taking them. Talk to your friends, sometimes you will forgot the pain when having fun talks. I still go to work because I still can. Don’t hold your pee as the pressure will make you feel more pain during urination. Look for other related forums for peace of mind. Hope everyone gets well. Take care!

  8. Tom says:

    I had Kidney Stones removed last Tuesday and a stent put in . I was supposed to remove it after 10 days but by Thursday the stent had slipped and I became incontinent. What a mess! Being on holiday I was not close to the hospital so I removed it myself. Took a few seconds no pain. But at least now can pee normally

  9. Gwen says:

    I had emergency surgery on June 5 2016, due to kidney stones. The Dr. Put in a stent and lately its been killing me when I use the restroom. I get the stent removed this Friday.Thank God. I too have been taking all kinds of pain meds and it works just for awhile.

  10. Silvia Manning says:

    I just had the procedure done they were able to remove the stone but they still put a stent in me they said they will remove it in a week why do I have a stent? Couldn’t ask the doctor cuz he was busy and already performed the procedure desperate need to know why I have a stent when the stone has now been removed????!?

    • Cal says:

      It’s to help your ureter heal, and stop your ureter from swelling.

    • Leeanne says:

      The reason why is so that it drains the kidney and if there are any other stones in there they will come out as well I don’t how it is for women but my husband has one right now and he is mostly uncomfortable then anything els, it opens the urethra enough to drain blood and fluid and if they had to use the of a lazer to brake up a stone cause something times if they big enough they will stuck and block the urine from coming out, hubby get his out next week yayyyyy no miserable hubby.

    • Nomthi says:

      To heal where the procedure was done thats what my doctor told me

  11. Melissa Reyna says:

    I had a uteral stent put in about 5 days ago after a procedure to break up my kidney stone a few weeks prior. The stunt was put in because I did not pass the kidney stone fragments after the first procedure. I have mild discomfort throughout the day. However, I do get a sharp pain in my lower back while urinating. After survey, I was sent home with pain medication, stool softener, and bladder spasm medication (all 3 of which i have chosen not to take). I’ll be going back for my 2 week followup in 9 days to get the stent removed in the clinic. Has anyone gotten a stent removed by their doctor who could tell me more about removal procedures. Where you administer that numbing medication? If so, how did they administer the numbing medication?

    • Jennifer Quinones says:

      I had stents put in twice.. The first was early April I found out I had large stones in both kidney.. I also had lithotripsy done twice the last one they took the stents out while I was asleep was fine for maybe half an hour and than my back was in excruciating pain I cried and laid in bed for several days. Was given viccodin and an antibiotics. Other than the frequent bathroom trips… the stents took majority of the pain I was having prior to them being placed away.hope this helped

  12. Antoinette Edwards says:

    I have 3 lithotripsy in the past and while pregnant worth my 10 year old I hand stent put in and replaced every 4 weeks through out the pregnancy worst experience ever. I just had a removable stent placed on Tuesday that I can remove myself how ever I still have kidney stones that are to large to pass. But now the Dr’s are saying they won’t finished what they started due to none insurance. I’m having serve pain and if I get out of bed or even rode in a car my whole body swells up like a balloon which I don’t think is normal I don’t know what to do.

    • Shana says:

      Omgoodness. I’m so sorry and I honestly don’t know how you are coping. I hope you have a law suit on your hands. Kidney stones are the worst pain ever (at least the big ones….and the small still are excruciating). I’m so sorry for you…….I’m going through one now, and I can’t imagine being pregnant. My heart aches for you….,

      • Shelbra says:

        I just had a lithotripsy done yesterday the stone was 12mm and a stent was placed in. It is very painful to urinate. It’s going to be
        removed on the 27th. Ma’am I pray that you get a second opinion. Try going to the ER. U shouldn’t be swelling and have to suffer like that. I will continue to pray for you.

    • Lisa says:

      Your dr should not denie u treatment due to no insurance he took a oath u need to consult with an attorney but this hang in there I pray that very thing work out for u

  13. Richard says:

    I agree with the deep breathing technique. I had a stent put in yesterday and every time I urinate there is a major pain in the kidney area. The deep breathing doesn’t take all the pain away but at least it’s not knee buckling.

  14. Martha says:

    Had a stent put in 1 week and 2 days ago. In terrible pain with constent urge to pee. Having a hard time trying to get the doctor that put it in to remove it since I don’t have insurance anymore, called the ER and they said they will not take it out. I don’t know what to do. I can’t live like this. Anyone have any suggestions? I just want to go back to my normal life.

    • Ghena says:

      Hi I’m having similar problem. Those who did it to you must complete the procedure or this can be looked at as medical malpractice[I think]
      – I will insist to my doc on taking it out.
      good luck to you.

    • Andy says:

      My doc said I could take my own out.. It won’t break .. It’s pretty long and has like fishing string attached to it.. U will have a few spasms while coming out

  15. Jeff says:

    I had a stent put in two days ago. While initially i felt a slight discomofort when peeing, the pain has gotten progressively worst. Urinating has become a nightmare, the backpain is the worst pain possible. I am so afraid to drink anything. Consider other options as stent procedure is extremely painful. And forget about working i can barely walk from my bathroom to bedroom. The stent has to stay in for another seven days. If you have a job that requires your detail attention this is another reason not to get a stent as it is impossible to focus on anything when you have this tremendous amount of pain.

    • De says:

      I had stone broke up and stent placed about 9mths ago i too had the pain u talked about & was worried about drinking & the pain it brought but when i called dr he said the pain would ease up if i drank more because without doing so ur body cant flush the stones as fast and ur urine can become very acidic it took a couple days after more water& i started to feel a lot better i had my stent for a month :( it was very painful the first 2wks n had much bleeding

  16. Ray says:

    Have a stent now for 8 hours with pain inside and in back on urinating
    Hopefully pain will subside since I take Rapaflo
    And will drink more water as recommended above
    Thanks

    • Leeanne says:

      Docors will suggest drinking beer for some reason beer dissolves the stones or water with that you won’t pass them.

  17. Violet Russell says:

    I had a stent inserted in my kidney which the doctor said supposed to stay for 3 months it in its 5 month and the Dr. Is giving me a run around. First he told me it’s to help reduce the pain I was having due to the kidney stones now he’s saying he didn’t tell me that it a cist that’s growing on my urethra dislike the bleeding and burning and urgency to pee and the uncomfortable o deal he gives me no medication I can feel the blotting in my both kidneys . He only advise me to do a urine test as it maybe I have an infection. Am having clots in my urine which makes is so difficult for me during urination
    Plz help concern patient

    • Brian says:

      Violet, by all means find another doctor! A second opinion may save you further pain and suffering. Any doctor that gives you the run around is not worth seeing.

  18. Julie walker says:

    Ive had a stent fitted for kidney stones about 11 weeks ago i feel very uncomfortable i want to wee all the time and when i do its like a burning feeling so ive been doctors 4 times now for different tablets , nothings worked im waiting to go into hospital to have kidney stones removed ive had enough now .

  19. Chanie says:

    I just had stint put in this morning. Is it normal to have an uncontrollable gushing of liquid???? PLEASE HELP

  20. Marie plazek says:

    I read some of these commits about how painful a stent is and I was really worried about getting one. I have had my stent in for 4 days now. I don’t feel the urge to pee all the time however I do have some back pain on left side that sometimes moves to the front also on the left side.
    I do have some discomfort when I do pee but just where my kidney is.
    They sent me home with painkillers which I took for the first 2 days.
    The pain killers made me worse as they made me feel sick and dizzie.
    I’m managing the pain O.K without them. I do drink through the night and I sit up
    During the day for periods of time and there is discomfort when moving.
    If I’m sore I just go lay down and the pain will stop.
    I,m able to this as I’m retired I don’t know I be able to go to work.
    Just so you know people act differently so you will hear of some that this procedure
    Was very unpleasant to very pain.

    • Hi i have a stent put in 6-3-16 and i also waiting to have Kidneystones breaking up when i went to Emergency room pain in Left side Vomiting, the Doctor was supposed to fit me in OUTPT SURGERY in and now am waiting on appt they said only appt is JULY 13,2016 well ther go the job.

  21. Matt says:

    Had a stent placed 25/4 ( or 4/25 for our US cousins ) and now have a date of 20/4 for removal which will end up being 8 weeks total.

    Uncomfortable at times but relatively pain free. Most discomfort appears when de hydrated – if you feel thirsty its too late, make a concious effort to drink throughout the day and especially in the morning ( I drink minimum 2 x pints of water or juice first thing )

    Passed blood a number of times and sometimes all day but this was mainly during and after playing golf and stopped when I stopped playing.

    I do get occasional irritation in what I would describe as my bladder / prostate area again when de hydrated and it is annoying.

    It seems counter intuitive at first when peeing is so painful that you should drink lots more ( and so have potentially more painful toilet trips ) but for me it actually has made the stent almost pain free. The only pain I cannot avaoid is the first pee of the morning as I will not have had a drink for 8-10 hours and its the usuall kidney / back ache and sting in uretha that no doubt we all know.

    Hope this helps

  22. Julie J Armstrong says:

    I have a rather large kidney stone in my right kidney got bad blood poisoning from it so they put in a stent to drain infection. Was supposed to go back this wwek but due to no insurance they wont take me. I hate the stent very uncomfortable hurts like i have a urinary tract infection. He told me to take AZOs i have doesnt help.need relief soon gettin worried. Ive had lithotripsy for 1 but actually passed 20 successfull ugh runs in family . gonna call monday i cannot function in this much pain

  23. David says:

    I have a tip for stent sufferers!

    I had a ureteroscopy three days ago. A 4mm stone had been in there since March; the doctor decided it was time to get it out. (A CT scan, and constant pain, told us that it was still there.) To our mutual surprise, he couldn’t find the stone! Only some debris. So he put a stent in, said it should stay in for at least 2 weeks.

    After a day or so, the burning sensation of peeing went away–but not the stabbing pain in my side every time I urinate. The doctor wrote: “Unfortunately, this is just the stent. In general, this gets better over time. For now, try to relax…deep breathing during urination.”

    Guess what? The deep breathing really helps! Most of the time, it reduces the pain and spasming by at least 50 percent. (Sometimes, it does nothing.) Just thought I’d pass this along in case it helps others!

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