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.

 

862 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Paul says:

    Update:

    I had the operation yesterday to blast the stones with laser. We will not know if they got them all until I get an x-Ray/cat scan next week. But the bigger update involves the stent. Part of the operation was to do a stent exchange. Basically remove the existing one and insert a new one. The stent will allow any stone debris to pass more easily. However this new stent is so much better. It still bothers me to urinate, but it is more of a sting versus excruciating burning I was getting.
    They said it was possible the other stent got moved around and was causing all the pain. Well it was in for about a month so I’m sure it did fall out of place or whatever.

    So far the new stent is a big difference for me. Anyone that is having a real difficult time with theirs may want to ask the doctor if an exchange is possible. I have no idea if they would consider it, but so far I am doing much better with the new one.

  2. David says:

    Thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences. I feel as though the Dr has been ignoring my symptoms. I am describing pain and very bloody urine but he just says it is common.
    I have an 11mm stone and after going into surgery to remove it, I was told that the ureter was too inflamed and they couldn’t get to it, so they put in a stent and rescheduled the surgery for 3 weeks later. As I’m waiting for the 2nd surgery this stent is making me crazy. I feel a constant irritant in my bladder and urinating is painful in my back and burning sensation in my urethra. What’s really scaring me is the color of my urine. It has varied from lemonade to fruit punch, but for a few days it has been much darker, something like V8. I’m really getting worried but I’m being told this is all normal.

  3. Laura says:

    Hi all
    I had laser surgery last week to remove an 18mm stone from my kidney and had a stent put in after. The couple of days were painful to say the least and blood stained urine. This then all disappeared, apart from the constant nee to wee all the time. However 1 week after the surgery the pain has returned after going for a wee, feels like my kidney is being squeezed every time. got 3 more days now until my stent is removed and really cant wait. The pain that this has caused is much more severe than the pain the stone was originally causing. However I am glad I had it done as know the stone had to come out and this was the best way. Just wish they would at least warn you about the pain you are going to have to entail after, at least we would have all been prepared for it. Hope everyone who has gone through or going through this recovers well.

  4. Kim says:

    I had surgery 5 days ago to remove a large stone that was pushing up against my bladder. The first couple days with the stent were pretty bad. The burning during urinating was unbearable, but fortunately it did subside. I’m still going frequently, and feel the urge to go when I don’t have to, but the real pain is gone. However I’m still in too much discomfort to go back to work or even leave the house. So even though the urologist wanted me to keep the stent in for 2-3 weeks, when I told him I couldn’t handle that he agreed to take it out 4 days from now. Also, he put me on oxybutynin, which is supposed to relax the bladder, but I’ve been taking it for a couple days and haven’t felt a change.

  5. Ron Schmelter says:

    I had a stone removed from my kidney and a stent put in. I am constantly peeing. I don’t feel when it’s coming on until I start to wet myself. Any ideas why this happens?

    • David says:

      Mine isn’t quite that bad, but I notice that I don’t feel the need to urinate until it is urgent, and then it is only a trickle.

  6. rick says:

    Hey tim my name is rick im 35 and just got my first stint after dealing with 6mm stone also a first . i know just what you are saying ive had a lot of blood in urine my wife says now i know what a period is like but i think this is worse . ive been shot stabbed and through 7 different surgeries but this is the worst pain ever . thank you for your relation to this glad im not alone

  7. Joseph George says:

    Am with my second stent after my first was successfully removed 10 months ago. Though less painful this time, bladder and bowel seem more affected than before. These are incoveniencces of the stent. Besides, I see blood in urine depending on posture assumed after long sleep, or after prolonged walking (even if gingerly) or sitting.

  8. Wendy says:

    I went to the er Monday with just excruciating pain in my back and stomach on the right side. After blood work and an urinalysis, they found I had a severe uti but blood showed nothing. I got home and started vomiting and the pain was worse. I started running 103 fever Tuesday to Thursday when I went back to my gp. He then sent me next door to the hospital for a cat scan. It showed a kidney stone and massive infection. He immediately sent me to a larger hospital and deemed it a medical emergency. That night after being admitted they mentioned stent. I started my research. Thank you so much to everyone who wrote and left comments on this page! That next morning I talked to my urolgist and made the informed decision to say hell no to the stent. My fever had subsided, and I asked if the atone is where it can’t pass. They said it is in a place where it should pass, but might take a while. I said that was fine, now send me home. I have been on antibiotics since Monday, and now I am home waiting on the stone to pass through. I’m on narcotics and yes I’m in pain, but I’m urinating just fine. I am so glad I said no. Even though passing the stone hurts, atleast I’m not in that pain that seems more than horrible and unbearable. My heart goes put to those who had it done. And to those being advised to have it..please do your research before having it done. I was on iv pain meds and oral pain meds and it was 2am and I was very I’ll while doing my research, so please make an informed decision regarding the stent.

    • Hayley says:

      I had the exact same thing! I ran a huge fever and was in awful pain with a UTI, went to the hospital and had Ultrasound, CT scan, Flexible Cystocopy and Renograph. Turns out I have a duplex/double kidney on my left side and the lower part is obstructed. I feel fine after IV antibiotics got rid of infecton. Getting married and going on honeymoon to mexico in less than 30 days and the doctors are saying no travelling due to the obstruction! :(

  9. Zoey says:

    Having been in hospital since Monday we are now on Saturday with severe pain from kidney stones. I have several stones on both sides biggest being 13mm smallest being 2mm. I have a 4mm one that has travelled down my bladder in to the uterus I now experienceing sharp shooting pains down below the doctors are reluctant to give me surgery and put a stent in. If I’m still experiencing this pain tomorrow then they will be fitting the stent…I am a bit worried now after reading various comments on here as to the discomfort of having the stent. I’m already in a lot of pain and do not want to have to go through any more pain. I feel nauseous all the time as well. Does anyone think I should get the stent it’s been nearly a week now with this pain ? Thank you

  10. Tim says:

    I am 32 and just recently experienced my second bout with a kidney stone. I tell you I am not one for running to the hospital for pretty much any reason. I was sitting at my kitchen table enjoying lunch with my wife. Out of nowhere I getba small pain in the lower middle of my back. I thought maybe I had just strained a muscle till Tue pain kept getting worse to the point where I could not stand. I was sent home from the ER with my new found friend and some pain meds and told to come back if things got worse. And they did. I was back in the ER less than twelve hrs later in so much pain I couldn’t keep from shouting for the few hrs it took them to get the pain under control. The next morning I was scheduled for surgery to remove a rather large stone, ruffly the size of a large grape. And the placement of a new friend Mr Stent. Now I am no stranger to pain. Can handle it pretty well, but thosenfirst two days where agonizing. Burning and blood. Every time I peed it felt as if my very kidney was being pulled out. Was put on antibiotics and Pyridium. Plus a pain pill. It been three days since the operation and the burning has slacked considerably. The pain of my “kidney being pulled out” has pretty much gone. This coming Monday bright and early I get the stent removed. Hopefully this is a little better of a story then the shock and horror stories I have above me. BEST OF LUCK AND WISHES FOR A SPEEDY RECOVERY!!!!!

  11. Chris says:

    Just got home from having a stent put in. Put myself in the hospital yesterday with severe lower left abdominal pain. Turns out there is a 9mm at the bottom of my ureta tune and a 5mm a little higher up. Today the burning sensation after urinating is almost unbearable Other than that I have some pretty bad pain on my upper left side when I move in certain positions, probably from the stent in the kidney. I am 59 years old and play competitive ice hockey. Current plan is to blast the big stone next week and then by law you have to wait three weeks before blasting again and the wait to remove the stent. Looks like I have at least Five to six weeks of this stent. I can give up hockey and golf because i think the stent will just cause too much side splitting pain but this burning sensation has got to go away soon. Anyone have any experience with meds that help or how long this lasts. I am drinking lots of water but really don’t want to go to the bathroom unless I have to. Thanks fellow kidneystoners

  12. Shannon says:

    I am 35years old and have suffered with bouts of stones so often I lost count. Today I was supposed to have my 20mm mass lasered and possibly need it again because of the size. Since my last doctor visit 3 weeks ago… It has doubled in size and completely blocked my kidney. I had such a massive infection that they were draining puss. Unfortunately, they did not use the laser and I am being sent to a specialist to surgically extract the large golf ball out of my back. They put in a stent to open up my ureter and it hurts!!!! I have a job where I am on my feet 10hrs a day… I go back next week… Just hope this subsides…

    • Becky says:

      I’m worried about working in a couple of days too. I work 12 hr shifts on my feet. I want to the grocery today and I was exhausted. :-(
      Good Luck to you Shannon.

  13. Kendal ward says:

    I’m 20 years old, I have 7MM stone that put me in the hospital for 3 nights. I had surgery on June 2nd and they couldn’t blast and remove the stone because of an infection so they put a stent in and put me on Percocet and medication for the infection and now they are going back in 2nd surgery July 14th to remove the stone and stent.. I’m just a little frustrated on why they waited a month and a half to remove it knowing I’m in pain :( I really hope I don’t get another one

  14. anna says:

    i had stents put in last week, and it is very uncomfortable, and not able to move around much with out pain following movement, I m trying to understand if the stones will pass while having stent in?

  15. Paul says:

    I am a 44 year old male. I went to the ER on June 26 with lower abdomen pain and they sent me in for a scan. 1.6 cm stone blocking the bottom of my kidney. They sent me via ambulance to main hospital. They decided to insert stent to allow kidney to recover, stone still there (couple of smaller stones in there too I am told). They said they will deal with the stone after the kidney stabilizes.
    Now the nightmare begins. Immediately after the stent was placed the kidney pain was gone, so that’s good. However, first two days peeing blood. I have to urinate constantly, and I mean constantly. And it burns. Really bad.
    It took 5 days for these pains to settle down but the urge to urinate remains. Went back on July 9 and they say stent remains until procedure to go in and blast stones with a laser. This is not until July 27.
    The pain from the stent has returned with a vengeance. I am peeing bright red today. I called and they say as long as I can evacuate my bladder and there are no clots then this is to be expected.
    I don’t know if I can wait until the 27 th. so much pain and constant discomfort. This is almost worse than the stone pain. I can’t play with my kids, can’t cut the grass or any other everyday things we all take for granted. I have to be close to a bathroom at all times. Doctor said because I am relatively young for this issue I will feel the pain and discomfort more. Oh joy.
    This has been a horrible 2 weeks and I still have to keep stent for a week after they blast the stones. None of the meds seem to be doing much except turn my urine to a scary orange color. I know this really doesn’t serve a purpose but I know reading other stories at least gave me some knowledge on the subject. I wish anyone else going through this a quick recovery. This is no fun…

    • Ros says:

      My sympathy to Paul. I went to emergency with excruciating pain and vomiting. They diagnosed a kidney stone which got stuck trying to leave the kidney. I was admitted as an in-patient and they put a stent in. They said I would be readmitted at a later date for the stone to be removed with laser surgery. The stent was an on balance decision by the consultant, who even asked for my view on it. Had I known how much pain it would cause, and for how long, I would have said no.

      I have been in severe discomfort and pain for 6 weeks now, and have 2 more weeks to wait until my hospital appointment. Walking is painful. Even the jolting of sitting in a bus or taxi is painful. And peeing is a different kind of pain. So my life has stopped while I wait.

      I don’t know why the stone wasn’t dealt with straight away. It was very frustrating. I got different answers. One now is that I had infection, as based on CRP, but I looked it up, it can indicate swelling anywhere in the body, not necessarily at the kidney or ureter, and when I said that, they replied, well, it was only up a bit. I feel as though I am fighting and debating them to get something done, or even to understand it.

      Peeing bright red is clearly blood, not good at all, but at least you know what it is. I have vomited white, like ricotta cheese – no connection with food eaten an hour or so earlier – and also have white chunks or strands in my stools. The white stool first happened closely after the anaesthetic for placing the stent. I took a sample to my doctor, who didn’t even bother to look at it. But now it has recurred, and with vomiting on top – weird, I can’t believe that it’s normal. It may be unconnected to the stone, but on top of this, the pain and bouts of terrible diarrhoea and elevated blood pressure (usually normal). I can’t understand why the medical service leaves me in this condition for so long. I began to think that it was the lumbering British NHS, but if Americans on insurance have similar experiences, I don’t know what to think.

      It would be nice if a medic on this forum could give an opinion on the white vomit and stool. The only indication after long search on google is it can be a hepatic problem (liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, obstruction of bile ducts. This is quite scary as CT scan of these was normal when I went to emergency. The kidney stone was the only issue.

      I don’t know why the doctor told Paul that 44 is “relatively young”. As I read it, the age for kidney stones is typically 20 to 50, and I don’t know what age would have to do with feeling the pain.

  16. Herb says:

    I have a 9 MM kidney stone. The Dr. attempted to remove it, but couldn’t as it was high up there. The Dr. pit a stent in and my pee has been predominantly blood ever since. They had to put a catheter in as I wasn’t able to pee after the stent was put in. They keep saying drink more water and the blood will clear up. I’m on Flomax and Finesteride as well. Does this sound right or wrong?? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Paul says:

      I’ve had a stent in since June 26. First couple of days there was blood. Then it cleared up. However last Saturday blood came back. Lots of it. I called and was advised as long as I could evacuate my bladder and no clots this was to be expected.
      Stents are torture in my opinion. Nothing but trouble since I had it placed.

  17. Kristen says:

    I had a hysterectomy on june2 and like I feared a lot went wrong. My ureter got cut and it was relocated, which lead to a catheter for 10 days and a stent for over a month. I’m getting the stent out tomarrow , which I’m super nervous about, but my problem is i feel like the longer I have this stent the more unbearable it all gets. At first it was just burning, then every time I was mobile it burned with greater intensity, and now for the last couple of days I have this constant cramping pain. I’m telling you, for all the people out there with pain I just feel so sorry for them, it just robs you of life. I just hope someday this will end, because this just makes me so depressed having to basically live in bed for a month.

  18. mike says:

    If h are reading this u are in alot of pain as i am. I had 2 stents put in yesterday and the bleeding is just starting to stop. Why us people why us!

    • Becky says:

      Why??? Why??? That is my ? too. I’ve lived with kidney stones for 20 yrs. Usually pass a couple a year. Have had lithotripsy 3 times. This is the first time I’ve had a blockage that required the stent. I passed a dozen 3-6 mm stones and there is an 11 mm that caused an obstruction with kidney infection. 3 others are behind it. So far stent isn’t bothering me too bad except after I pee then it burns like crazy for a second. No more blood. My big issue was I had a reaction to the Cipro I was started on and ended up with a nice ambulance ride to the hospital. Scared the crap out of me. My throat swelled up, I felt like my whole body was on fire, I lost my voice and I got so dizzy that I couldn’t sit up and had instant nausea vomiting and diarrhea. I took 50 mg of Benadryl as soon as I realized what was happening. That’s how the ball got rolling…. So stent stays in until after 1 week of amoxicillin and then laser treatment.

  19. kelle Treharne says:

    Help I’ve had a kidney stent put in on the end of April due to a blockage In the kidney, I was told it would only be in for 2 months it’s now 3 months and I feel as if the hospital have forgot about me.i had a scan and the results said the tubes out of the kidney are inflamed so does that mean the stent is not working

    • Paul says:

      I have had a stent put inside of me in the past for kidney stones and my Dr. only leaves it in for about a week and no more, I feel for you if you have had that in you for that long maybe you should see another Dr.

  20. leigh says:

    Before xmas i had a 3 stone and3/4 lb cyst remove from my stomach and the surgeon who did the op cut the valve from my kidney to my bladder he just closed me up and attached a nescospy bag on my back 3 month later i. Went back into hospital and they put a stent in and sew the valve up and inserted a catheter i could not sit stand walk or use the toilet as the pain was tremouse i take stent irrational pill local anaesthetic squired inside me and morphine and i still have pain i cant walk very far as the stent bouunces on my bladder and make me go to the toilet where my pee is hot dark and stinkss also it contains blood in my urine and i cant take normal antibiotics as they dont work and i have tobgo back in to get the old one taken out and a new one put in and have to wear a cathertor for 10 days i would not put a animal though this pain never mind my eorst enemy’s

  21. Angela says:

    Hi there fellow kidneystoners…

    I had my kidney stone surgery on June 25th. It was broken up by a laser and completely removed. A stent was placed in my left ureter “to promote healing”. I have since been rushed to the ER with serious left flank pain. Ive been throwing up from the pain. I ended up with a severe infection which was causing more pain. If I do any kind of walking. Even just small steps around the house, I have pain and blood in my urine. Its been just over a week with the stent and I am still having pain and bloody urine.
    The pain was severe with bladder spasms for three days after the surgery. Those have subsided. Im on short term disability till June 12th. And the stent is being taken out on the 14th.
    My god this pain was not what I expected at all.
    This is non stop pressure and pain.
    I was prescribed Percocet, tramadol and a pill to help me pee after the surgery. I am now on a heavy antibiotic and pain med for urine infections.
    I never want to do this again. NEVER. I think Id rather try to pass the stone next time. Just my two cents.

  22. Jon Bee says:

    OK..first I’m 76 years old and in good shape. I got up and had pain in back, got so bad I drove my self to emergency room. Almost passed out during registration so they flopped me on a cart and did a CT Scan. Found a 14mm stone in my track between bladder and kidney. Admitted to hospital spent night getting IV pain medication and headed for surgery the next day. I was concerned because I’ve never been under. I have epridural shots for the placement of 200 seeds for prostate cancer and also had fistula surgery but never under. I even did colonoscopy without sedation. We’ll all I know is I was telling the anthologist about my fear and wham…..I’m out of surgery and stone removed. The urologist had to cut the middle lobe of my prostate off and remove a seed from the middle of the cannel. He also placed a stent with a string the now sets at the end of my penis. I’m afraid it’s my get in my way during sex!!!!!! Need a good laugh. I’m home after one day stay and in some pain especially when I pee. The first day the back killed me but it’s gotten better. I have the pictures of my prostate. The pain and burning is similar to that I experienced after the seed implantation. I had pain for over 6 yrs. so I’ve learn to accept it. I do have a better stream with part of the prostate removed. I guess it made the stone removal easier and I hope stent removal tolerable. I bleed at the end of urination just a few drops but lots of burning and pain. I guess it will go away with the stent removal. I see the end of the string attached to stent at the end of my Johnson. Should I yank it out? I know many of you are suffering but I hope it gets better. Thank God we live in a place that can at least treat us ….just think of those who must suffer without the medical attention we get. Hoping to shoot my age again after stent removal….I cheat a lot

  23. Stephanie says:

    I have dealt with kidney stones for 25 years. I did have a stent placed back in 1993 but just remember it bothered me when I walked a lot and when was removed in the office. Other stones since then I have passed. I have been dealing with a large stone in the lt kidney for over a year and half and since Feb of this year the pin was starting intermittantly. Stone had been high in the kidney. After 3 painful bouts and passing fragments and probably clots he did ultrasound 3 weeks ago and stone had dropped near ureter. Now time to have stone surgically removed or lithotripsy. I chose lithotripsy. Was suppose to have procedure done 7/2/15, but developed a UTI the last 2 weeks was on antibiotic that was right to rid the bacteria but had repeat UA this past Monday and got the results of culture back 7/1 that it was positive so no lithotripsy. MD called and said needed place emergency stent due to posible kidney damage due to back flow of infected urine into kidney. Had stent placed this afternoon, but no stone removal due to high risk of septicemia. It has been nothing but pure HELL,,,,my pain. My stones weren’t even sometimes this bad. Im taking oxycodone 10mg (2) tablets every 4 hours with little relief. I do have flomax and will try to see if this will help. I will do just about or try anything now. Also I did have valium he gave me due to nerves and I took half 5mg tablet an hour ago and have felt the best I have all day regarding pain. Not sure but feels like bladder spasms. Im voiding little amounts and frequently. This can be from the infection too. Can also be more painful if you have an infection already and then stent is placed. He gave me pyridium which has been useless. If no relief I will be calling my Urologist. I am a nurse and understand foreign objects can cause pain due to irritation….but there is no way I could work feeling like this let alone taking narcotics as much as I am. Wishing all of you the best. Seems like their are many of us out there unfortunately!

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