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.


1,031 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. LANI says:

    OMG ! so comforting to read your experiences. This stent thing is worst than recovering from giving birth. Suppose to keep this stent for 3weeks. I had my surgery on 11-3-15 and since then has been uncomfortable. From feeling the pressure to pee, cramping and side/back pain. You name it. and if I have been on my feet for 1 hr or so then I get this belly ache same spot where I had my kidney stone episode…nightmare pain. No one understands, unless you been thru this. So, I’m all about water now. This thing sucks. I have to pay parking everyday, to park as close as I can to the front door of my office. Some serious unpleasant feeling .

    • Carol Logan says:

      I had surgery Friday 13th 2015 had
      My appendix out and I have stone lodges in my kidney and have a temporary stent in
      My urethra omg the discomfort is so bad I have has infections and antibiotics changed to see what helps
      Me I just want it out sick
      Of the feeling of peeing every5
      Mins ..
      I have slight side back
      Pain ATM
      Not sure if it’s the stone but I can feel ur pain cause
      I’m dealing with same problem .

    • Shereka says:

      Tell me about it ! I had a stent , actually two of them in 11-18-15 and I said the same thing…IT’S WORST AFTER RECOVERING HAVING A BABY and I had twins 17 years ago .

  2. Olivia says:

    I have been through 5 stones the first surgery the dr accidentally nicked me
    And had to stop the surgery so I had a stent for 3 weeks I was in so much
    Pain had to put a towel in my mouth and scream every time I had to go to the bathroom then had surgery again had another stent for three weeks got that removed had another surgery on the other side now I have another stent and I’ll be having that one removed in a week can’t wait until this is over never want to go through this again it’s very very painful wish there was a better way to remove the stones but Ive changed my diet already hope this helps can’t take all of the pain Ive been going through for the last 3months anymore

  3. Douglas says:

    Well here is a positive story. This is from a male point of view.

    I had my stent removed yesterday. I was terrified of doing it since 10 years ago I had a stent removed via rigid scope pretty much without Xylocaine and god almighty, it was horrible.

    Yesterday I showed up and when they checked my blood pressure it was 170/110 because I was terrified. My Urologist promised me over and over it wouldn’t be as bad as my previous pull but given the prior circumstance, I didn’t believe him. Also coming in, the stent had given me literally every side effect (pink urine, brown urine, sensitivity, burning urination, urgency, etc…)

    This is how it happened.

    I took two Norcos-5/325 going in. First I went into a room with a nurse and saw the chair and scope. I was asked to take my pants and underwear off. At this point, I’m desensitized to showing myself off to the Urology department so that didn’t bother me. I was asked to empty my bladder and did. I walked out and they positioned me properly in the chair; there were no straps. They draped me and pulled my penis through the hole in the fabric. (For those who worry, you won’t get an erection cause your mind is spinning a hundred miles a minute and the anxiety won’t allow it.)

    Next the nurse completely covered my penis in some iodine like substance then told me the Xylocaine (lidocaine jelly) was next. The nurse dabbed a few drops on the opening and held for a moment then carefully placed the stubby tipped syringe at the opening (no needles is attached). She told me to relax my lower body and did. She gently pushed it in and I could feel it go in but it didn’t burn. I even asked to look at the container and saw that it was Xylocaine. They then placed a wire-like clamp on (which i didn’t feel) and then just started to talk to me.

    After about 5 minutes the door opened and my heart skipped a beat as my Urologist walked. He knew about my previous retrieval and was very sympathetic. He asked if I was OK and I nodded I was then he grabbed the FLEXIBLE scope. (DO NOT LET THEM USE A RIGID SCOPE – Metal rod.) He walked up to me and said he was going to start. I felt him grab my penis and at that point, I guess I was so numb that a few moments later I asked him if he was starting and he replied “I’m half way to the bladder.”

    I could hardly feel it and while being flexible, the scope is the width of a pencil. You can feel the pressure that something is in your penis but no pain. The Xylocaine does work really well.

    He passed into the bladder with no problems; there was no pinch. My advice is you have to be relaxed, force your muscles to relax your lower half; I held my tension in my upper half of my body. They start to shoot water into your bladder and that is an odd sensation, as if you have to urinate.

    He grabbed onto the stent and now, the stent pulling out did make me cringe and flop around slightly. I had a thick stent inside of me so I could feel the tip dragging down.
    He pulled gently and that was the worst part. He paused briefly during pull as to not just straight drag it out. The nurse and him also would try and do things to grab my attention while pulling to break my focus on the stent pull. I won’t lie, that part was were the pain was but it was like a 3.5 / 10 and over fast. Before I knew it he said, “The stent is out!”

    Believe me, afterwards you will feel so much better that its worth it.

    From personal experience, I would say, don’t let them use a rigid scope. Some older Urologists are just stuck in their ways but the flexible vs rigid is night and day. Make sure they use Xylocaine. Don’t let them try to blow you off on it saying “It’s so fast you don’t need that.” You’re the one going through the procedure, not them.

    All and all, the mental part was EASILY the worst part. I know the thought of something going up your penis is cringe inducing but I was surprised how little I felt. I literally did not feel the scope going in (on top of having a stent-induced sensitive penis that couldn’t even rub across fabric without me cringing.)

    Today there is no pink urine and it doesn’t hurt to pee. All the stent symptoms are gone. I’m real thankful to my Urologist. Leave questions if you’d like.

  4. Barbara says:

    I had a small stone (6 mm) drop down and get lodged in the ureter, so it was lasered and removed and a stent was inserted. The stent will be removed today after 2 weeks – yay! I was given pyridium for the burning and bladder spasms and it really hasn’t been bad. There are plenty more where this bad boy came from – in both kidneys – so we’re going to have ‘the talk’ to decide what to do: go after them or wait to see if they strike on their own. I’m pretty sure I want lithotripsy, I want them out on my terms! It’s not like they pass on their own at a good time. Anyone out there had lithotripsy?

    • Tiffany says:

      Yes. I just had the surgery on October 22, 2015. I don’t remember a thing. However, I had a stent placed about 2 weeks prior to the surgery. That stent was removed so they could laser the stones and placed another stent in. I go back into the office next week to have this one removed.

    • Leigh says:

      Litho is the way to go! I had a cysto and litho 3 days ago. No pain at all after the litho!!

    • Judi P. says:

      Yes, I”ve had had lithotripsy and had good results. After breaking up stones, it allowed them to pass thru ureter to the bladder. There may be discomfort as they pass because they still can cause irritation in the ureter, similar to scratching. Lots of fluid intake is very important to get the kidney flushed of stones.

    • Cindy says:

      I’ve had lithotripsy a few times. It’s not nearly as difficult as a ureteroscopy with stent placement, which is more involved. There is no guarantee with lithotripsy that all of the stone fragments will pass and not remain to become stones. An obscene amount of water consumption will probably help with flushing of fragments. I’ve had bruising and dull aches from the procedure and then there were times when I had no side effects except for very bloody urine. Good luck.

    • Amy says:

      I had the most painful experience from this procedure. It’s now been over 3 weeks and I still have painful urination, discomfort sitting, bending and I would never do it again. There’s hope for you though… I have fibromyalgia and al pain complex. I thing my body just reacts to pain and discomfort differently than thos who are healthy. Believe me passing a stone the old fashioned way is not the way to go. My best wishes to you

    • Beth says:

      I had lithotripsy on a 14mm lodged in my left kidney and it is the way to go in my opinion. I didn’t need a stent and the “gravel” from the broken up stone was small and passed easily. Only had to have injected anesthesia too which is way easier on my body than general. Unfortunately a 6mm lodged in my lower ureter and stuck for 6 weeks so I just had a ureteroscopy last Thurs. with stent placement. I would do lithotripsy a hundred times over before having to do this again. Although I will add that while lousy and painful, the stent has not been as bad as I feared after reading posts on the net. Thanks be to God!

  5. Rahul says:

    Had 12 mm stone stuck in my ureter. Was supposed to have a laproscopy, but during the surgery the stone went back to kidney and the doctors were forced for ESW (PCNL was not possible as I am allergic to some kind of dye). A stent is inserted in my left ureter and GOD, it pains while I urinate!!! Burning sensation during urination and pain in the abdomen!

  6. Roxanne says:

    Just had 26mm stone removed from right ureter and 24cm Stent inserted two days ago. I am suffering with acute pain in my back kidney area right to my groin. Is this a common side affect of removal or should I be concerned about an UTI or some type of damage caused by the removal? I removed it myself by pulling the string just like the doctor ordered. Has anyone had this experience? Please let me know before I rush to the ER.

  7. K.T. says:

    I feel it for you all🙏🏽

    I have 3 stones, 2 in Urethra & 1 in Kidney…. Went for surgery Friday 23rd October 2015..

    It was meant to be PNCL versus Uretoscopy but it didn’t go as planned Dr say couldn’t see stones & my tubes were really tight which they had to stretch!!!

    They didn’t take out stone in right Kidney as they say was too large plus it’s burriied in a sack, so the will have to take it out @ a later date through my my back!!

    In the meantime was sent home with a stent to be taken out on Wednesday. When I woke from the surgery all I kept saying is I want to wee I want to wee & the nurse kept saying I didn’t it was the pressure from the stent, having the stent in the pain has been escruciating, I wanted to wee every minute when I get up the pressure makes me want to wee & if I didn’t go straight away it would hurt so bad & eventually wet myself, I should be drinking more but I’m so afraid as the slightest sip I want to wee.

    There was a few times where I thought death would be better😥😥😢😢

    • Rahul says:

      Its the same here!! It pains like hell. Just got discharged today. Stent will be removed next month.!!

      • lucas says:

        tell me about it had my stent in two weeks stings,burms,bach ache being permanently tired and no appetite not sure if can keep this up for 3 months

    • Joseph says:

      I had 8 mm and 5 mm stones on my left and right kidney. After a friend of mine suggested I visited ayurvedic hospital in India and took ayurvedic medicine for 3 months… believe it or not, NOT EVEN A SINGLE STONE IS NOW PRESENT. All stones gone without surgery or any pain. I won’t publish the medicine or hospital here as this would mean advertising, but if anyone of you wanna have real results consult any good ayurvedic hospital in India. (Note: If stone is passed to ureter from kidney then surgery is the only option, stones in kidney can be removed with medicines)

      • Rula says:

        I totally agree with. Some stones (calcium based ones ) might take longer but Ayurveda medicine is magical for kidney stones and many other health problems

    • Jacqueline says:

      I was in agony the same as you after stent removed then the pain we

    • Tiffany says:

      I found out through trial and error, the more water you drink the better you feel. Less irritation and the discomfort level decrease. Yes, you will go to the bathroom 50,000 times a day but it won’t be painful. I have been drinking about 50-80ozs of water per day.

  8. A Adams says:

    I’ve been diagnosed too with kidney stones, just the two at the moment. What I want to establish is how to prevent them from reoccuring or reducing the chance.

    Does anyone know what can be done and more to the point what has worked? Some say diet changes are crucial but I have also read about making physical changes to your daily routine such as getting off your backside more often and not sitting for too which my work involves!

    A Adams from hospital bed

    • Lavender says:

      Yes… Google Cystone medicine from an indian company called Himalaya
      You can buy it from Ebay as well
      This is an Ayurvedic medicine that is effective on removing Stones and stopping them from reoccurring

  9. Caroline says:

    I have a 4mm stone and had a stint put in. Today is day11 and it is really hurting and feels like I need to urinate more today than ever. Surgery to remove stint and stone Monday. Stopped bleeding but it’s hurting pretty bad

  10. Elizabeth says:

    If the Dr can’t find the stone it could be covered over with scar tissue, this happened to me. Need another c t scan or a c t program. Scar tissue can also block the ureter and cause pain but doesn’t show up on c t scans. A c t program will show stricture from the scar tissue. Drinking lots of water, and/or alkaline water helps ease the discomfort of the stent and the stent removal.

  11. Joe says:

    I write this comment as I’m sitting in a hot soak to help ease the pain of the stent I had placed just shy of 2 weeks ago and that’s due to come out in 4 days. This has been my second stent this year and 3rd in a years time. Oct. 2nd of last year I had a 9mm and 11mm stone removed by Shockwave, that were impacted halfway down the right ureter, and the first stent placed. After several accounts of malpractice I left my first urologist and was able to find my current one. Unfortunately due to medical ins red tape by the time I found my new urologist the first stent had been in for over 3 months. Feb 2nd of 2015 my new doc went in and used a laser to destroy the 7mm stone, that the first urologist decided to leave in my left kidney, and he had to clean the stones that had calcified and formed on the original stent that by that point in time had now been in for 4 months. He placed a new stent in the left side and that one remained in for 2 weeks. Oct. 7th I went in for a laser lithotripsy to remove an 8mm and had my current stent placed. I have had an issue with stones since I passed my first one at the tender age of 13. I had my first lithotripsies done to remove 7 stones, 3 in my left kidney 4 in my right kidney none smaller than 7mm and the largest then was 14mm, when I was 27. The doctor then placed bilateral stents from both kidneys out of fear of total obstruction of my kidneys. In the last 12 months I have a stent in me for a total of 5 month. Nov of 2013 I literally passed, and have photos of it, an 11mm stone. I listed all of this for the purpose of being able to say that I would rather piss out another 11mm rock then ever have to suffer the pain of a stent again! For me personally the pain and constant discomfort that a stent causes is far more disruptive than that of the original offending stone. But alas it is a necessary evil and one I feel I will more than likely have to suffer thru again. Keep your chin up my friends and remember this to shall pass!

  12. Deanna says:

    I had a small 5 mm stone two years ago that was causing hydronephrosis. Urologist went in and removed the stone with ureteroscopy and laser lithotripsy. The surgeon noted blood and edema in my ureter during the procedure so he placed the stent. My blood pressure dropped in recovery so I was put in ICU. A student nurse accidentally pulled out my stent the next day while I was in ICU. A few days later I got congestive heart failure due to overload of IV fluids and minimal output. Hospital treated all of that and released me from the hospital. Now two years later, my left kidney is not functioning at all and has to be removed ASAP. Apparently, the ureter has been obstructed this whole time causing severe hydronephrosis and hydroureter due to the stent not being kept in place to keep the ureter open until healed. The stent may suck but they definitely have a purpose!

  13. David says:

    Just had a stent put in after the doctor said he couldn’t find the 4mm stone that was supposedly stuck just as the ureter enters the bladder. He inserted the stent anyway and made my urethra bigger. I’m not sure why or what the stent is in there for if there’s no stone? About eight hours after surgery, ended up in ER with the worst pain in my life. They gave me dilaudid. Then sent home with norco. Feel better on day two. Any ideas about stent insertion? Tia

  14. Kris says:

    I am a chronic stone maker. I went to the ER for the usual kidney stone pain because my meds were not working. They found I had an obstructing 8mm stone in my distal ureter. Since it had been trying to pass for 3 weeks with no avail, they set me up for a laser blasting and double j stent. I was nervous after reading all of the stories on this site only to realize the pain was not bad. I was really nauseated the day after the stent was placed but the pain was almost non existent. I did have the bleeding and minimal pain when I urinated. Urinating became easier when I drank more water. My urologist prescribed me pyridium for the urinary discomfort and antibiotics. I would say the feeling of the stent is more awakard/annoying than painful. Hope this eases some of your minds and let’s you know that not everyone has a bad experience. Good luck!

  15. Michael sutton says:

    A41mm stone I bet that hurt you did they laser it all at one go

  16. Dalton Jones says:

    I have had the joy of a stent after a stone was blasted. However, after the initial passing of some blood, tissue, and probably some urine, I was unable to urinate because of the intense pain the stent caused.After 1 week they removed the catheter and the stent. I was immediately able to urinate on my own thereafter.Now, one year later, I have a stone again, this time in the other kidney and not as big. But very painful and it won’t pass on it’s own. Oh boy. To get to do this all over again.

  17. pjsealy says:

    I was rused to ER for shortness of breath-wound up spending 10 days in a hospital being run thru a barrage of tests for AFIB and “something” with my kidneys. Can’t really say they gave much choice-scary! I’m 78 and have never had AFIB-did not know what it was and then was told they would put stents in my ureter tubes because of some blockage they thought they saw. I also have Dercum’s Disease which is fatty tumors which, being just fat do not show except maybe as shadows. Was told after stents placed that they would not do what they intended because the blockage was some pressure from outside (st lump?-probably) Stents in now over 3 mo. and it has been a real fight to get approval to have them removed.
    Was told fionally they will go next week, under anesthesia but as outpaqtient so will go home if and when wake up. They reluctant to mention pain possibilities. Want to replace stents every 6 mo like a paycheck. Did say they were blasting a stone-I said maybe, maybe not because I have maintained AI do not approve of the blasting thing because it is rather like blasting the stone into the kidneys like so much shrapnel and no way to know if it comes out. They are so anxious to get these darn things in and so reluctant to really discuss the pain possibilities or other things like bleeding, etc.
    Odd they get so upset we go to the internet but it’s their own doing – or maybe undoing. I’m almost at a pooint to leave them in and let them disintigrate but then read about some actually forming more stones on their own and then being difficult to get out. Couldn’t even get them to tell me if mine have a string or otherwise-maybe because old gals like me get tired of the crap and just want out lives baclk, Do you wonder if any of them ever read these posts? You think???? Naaaah-very arrogant.

    • Diana Gibson says:

      You have just made my day. Just went through everything you did in July and August. I had many of the same thoughts that you expressed. I finally went to the one hospital in our rural area, sat down in the lobby, and informed them I wasn’t leaving with the stent…it was out within 3 hours

    • IrishGirl says:

      I get ya, PJSealy, and really sorry you’ve been going through all that. It’s wrong, but you definitely have to be your own advocate and demand test results and clarification of information…. And don’t be afraid to get a second opinion rather than taking one docs opinion and allowing them to run with it.

      I’m not a doctor, but I currently have a troublesome stone, teeny in comparison to others on here, and am facing the stent option, (currently in Urgent Care in fact). Just so happens that in my career I work with doctors/providers, so I see how self advocation is so important.

  18. Susan Rollins says:

    I just had a 41 mm stone crushed 3 weeks ago. Stent will have to remain until all stone fragments have passed which could take several weeks. Hopefully the fragments will not bunch up and block the opening. Stent is uncomfortable but necessary to pass stones.

    • Michael sutton says:

      A 41mm stone on my god I bet that hurt you having that lasered

    • IrishGirl says:

      Hey Susan, saw your past and was wondering, since the stone was so hulkish, did they run tests and tell you what was causing it/them?

      Unfortunately there are SO many things that can cause kidney stones, but I know that if they can obtain even a part of one they can test it to find out what the ‘creation factor’ is, (i.e. shellfish, soda consumption, urinary tract infection, etc.), so that, if it’s possible, the cause can be avoided. (Check out

    • IrishGirl says:

      …post, not past. I’m not that creepers. Lol!

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