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.

 

1,227 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. julie says:

    I had a stent put in after getting sepis due to kidney stones just over 6 weeks ago. Was told removel would be 2-3 weeks and am still waiting. The pain up until the last 2 weeks was horrendous . Not being able to wee but constently want to go . Leaking urine and blood in it . The sysptoms have got a lot better but this week I am in pain in the kidney area and medication isn’t helping .Cant wait to have stent and stones removed.

  2. Jeane says:

    I relate to all the comments this is my second stent for kidney stones. Finally getting it out next Tuesday that will make two weeks of having it ugh. I just want to stop producing stones in my right kidney I have had lithotripsy at least five times and the first time was when I was 11 years old I’ve had two percutaneous stone removals and 1 uteruescopy…This has been on going now 29 years with a stag horn and several small ones in my right kidne just removed in July. I went to the Dr after three UTi’s from January to April 2016 only to find out right kidney full again nothing bigger than 5mm uerterescopy and Litho done April 18 2016 all mine have been calcium oxalate stones and i drink a gallon of water a day, all the usual test no definite conclusion, so the Dr’s tell me just see me once a year it’s easier to get rid of the smaller stones Hahahaha she had jokes!
    Best of luck to everyone :)

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