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.

 

1,268 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Jason G. says:

    I am a string puller. Technically not me, but my wife. I had a small stone (2mm) but it was a rather stubborn stone and decided to lodge itself in my right ureter for quite some time. My doctor decided it was time to go in and remove the stone. Well wouldn’t you know, the stone actually broke up in the ureter! Some debris was found in the system and subsequently removed and I was clog free, well minus the stent he decided to leave in there “just in case”. My stent sucked. It was painful, at times when I urinated, almost feeling like the stone had emerged anew in my kidney. So, tonight, I took an 800mg Ibuprofen, a Perc-10 and some antibiotics prior to allowing my wife to “pull the string”. I love my wife dearly, but she has quite the weak stomach. She almost stopped halfway through to clean up the little bit of dribble that came along with the removal. The removal itself was not too bad, just an awkward feeling as you can feel this 9″ long piece of plastic being removed. It came out with very little effort and minor discomfort. Now, about an hour and a half after the procedure was complete I am feeling a little discomfort, mainly down near the testicle (which is weird). Not sure why it is bothering me so low, but it is about a 4 out of 10. (And remember, I am high). Not trying to discourage anyone, just my story for you all enjoy.

  2. Tru says:

    I had an attempt at laser lithotripsy and stent today however due to a “slender” ureter the urologist couldn’t get to my lovely 8mm stone. So he placed the stent to dilate the ureter with another attempt at laser in 4-6 weeks time. The renal colic is agony however at least it’s intermittent, this constant need to pee, sucker punch to my back and pain in my bladder when I do my tiny pee’s it turns out the stent isn’t much fun either!
    This is my first stent as this is my first stone. Is there any chance it will settle over the next few days does anyone know?

    • Joanne says:

      My failed too. The stent was a constant problem. The pain was not too bad but I can always feel it and the need to urinate all the time is tiring. Also had uti the whole time and on antibiotics for 5 weeks. When I went back for the 2nd try to remove stones 6 weeks later the stent was block with a stone and the kidney was infected with the back up of urine. Result – not able to remove stones and another stent and more antibiotics. If I was you I would keep an eye on it, be in contact. With your GP and not let the, leave the stent in for as long as mine. Hopeful next week will be successful.

    • L says:

      Not much of a chance, sorry. I was put on Uribel for the bladder spasms and it helped tremendously.

    • Linda says:

      I had a stent placed 6 days ago. It is less noticeable every day. Still a bit uncomfortable, but manageable with Tylenol when I need it which isn’t all the time. It is my first one too. Hopefully you will feel better soon.

  3. Somer Ballard says:

    I have had kidney stones many times and I am only 27. I have had multiple lithotripsies and just found out my left kidney is full of stones again they say they are all fairly small 5mm or less however my urologist is going to put a stent in one day from now. I have never had a stent and I am nervous. Will the stent help me pass the stones that are in my kidney as well as the one in my ureter? My Dr doesn’t take the time to answer many of the questions I have which doesn’t help with my nervousness. Any comments would make me feel better about the procedure I’m going to have done. Thanks in advance.

    • Mittal Prajapati says:

      Dear friend, I have stent in my ureter since 15 days. And I feel no big problems. Only some burning sensation while urination. and thats not serious. So dont afraid of it. Trust your Mr. Dr. :)

    • Kate says:

      Get a new Dr. or at least a couple of opinions from a source other than your doctor. Seek someone with a board certification in Urology that is not associated with your current doctor. A good doctor takes time for a patient to ask questions and answers questions. You are right also that you are young to be having these problems. There should be answers to why you have frequent stone formations and how to prevent them in the future.

    • Suzanne A says:

      You need to have your parathyroid checked to see if that is the cause. My uncle had multiple stones and this was the cause. Its rare but it happens so don’t let your dr be dismissive about it. I have a stent right now. My second in a week as the first one came out. Its a lot better than the stone pain but it is uncomfortable. Bending and sitting up for long periods of time are off limits because of the discomfort. Tell them not to tape the string. It comes unstuck and snags so you are better off tucking it to the side and being cautious of it. You should see a thread. Not a plastic tube. When I came home from the procedure i went to bed and woke up wet. When i went to the rest room i saw the stent but thought it was the string to remove the stent. Was in agony because of swelling of lasering of stone. They kept me overnight the second time and the stent stayed. (But nurses kept taping the string so tell them not to!) More pain in beginning because of the irritation of two procedures a few days apart. But about 5 days after the second procedure i started to pass the lasered bits of my stone. They did not pass without the stent. With the stent they passed. But swelling had to go down before they passed. I have a week to go before they will take it out. Today i went out and sat up a lot and i keep feeling like i need to pee constantly. Ive been laying around a lot to ensure it stays put and did not have that issue until today. The end of it is probably putting pressure on my bladder because ive spent too mush time in a sitting position.

    • Susan says:

      Hey there!
      I’m in the same boat as you are. I’ve had kidney stones for the past couple of years now. This past Thursday I had to go to ER for pain. I have a stone way to big to pass and they had to give me an iv which I have never had caused I’m scared to death of the. But I had to have surgery yesterday for them to put a stint in. Morning after and I feel a little discomfort, some pain down there and the urge to pee a lot

  4. Beverly S. says:

    I had a bilateral ureteral stent procedure 5 days ago in preparation for a second procedure to remove 3 kidney stones (one in each ureteral and one in my left kidney). The second procedure should be in one week’s time.

    After 5 days of having the stents, I find that I’m urinating frequently (sometimes every 30 or 60 minutes overnight). After 5 days I still don’t have an appetite and sometimes feel dizzy or have a loss of balance.

    Just wanted to ask if anyone else has had similar symptoms.

    Thank you.

  5. Shari says:

    Has a one in this forum been tested for parathyroid disease? I am going to insist. I am recovering from 3 stones which landed in my bladder and would not leave. This past Friday, I was scheduled for a,cystoscope to remove them.Wound up with a stent which I am to remove today. It’s been a nightmare. Lots of pain, can’t walk, peeing all the time with lots of blood( to which I was told was normal). Hurts to sit,walk.I am extremely fit and this has truly stopped me. While being on a special diet to help with oxalates, I have read a lot. According to my blood work, I am 1 tenth of a point off for testing my parathyroid. They won’t do it but I am going to insist. I have a friend who had his tested for many bouts of stones and they found a tumor. Had his out and he has been stone free. I have had to deal with many things in my life but this sucks.im going to be more demanding with my doctor. I feel I need to be proactive here with MY health.

  6. Debbi says:

    I had surgery on 4/21 to remove a fairly large kidney stone that was imbedded in my left ureter. Despite nearly complete blockage, the surgery went well. Due to the damage the stone did to the ureter, I had to have a stent in place for 3 weeks rather than just one week that is normally recommended.

    I had some pain that was well managed with prescriptions for the first few days. Overall, the stent wasn’t too awful. Outside of the constant sense of urgency, it was fairly easy going. I had the stent removed exactly 3 weeks after the surgery. I had some cramping about 8 hours after removal that lasted about 3 hours, but no pain since.

    What is a concern, though, is that I’m more than a week past stent removal and I still have that “urgency” feeling nearly all the time. I don’t really have the bladder spasms that I had while the stent was in place, but even on a just-emptied-bladder I feel as though I have a full bladder. Is it possible that the bladder was just so irritated that it’s going to take some time for it to go back to normal? This constant feeling is driving me crazy! Most of what I read said it should only last a couple days. It’s been well over a week and it doesn’t seem to be improving much. Anyone else experience this and how long before it went away?

  7. Val Reyes says:

    I thought I needed to comment on stent. I have had stent many times. Most recent 04/18 after having surgery for stones. I was scheduled for 2nd surgery so stent was to be left in for 2 weeks. A few days before 2nd surgery I developed 105 fever and chills. I was admitted 6 days with infection in my blood due to stent. This is 2nd time I became septic due to stent. I had stent removed at bedside, procedure that should have been quite easy took over an hour with 2 urologists trying. This was very painful almost as painful as passing stones. I have had bad experience with stent. Constantly every 15 mins urinating and literally feeling like I was passing stone. One time, I was crying on toilet. Stent can be excruciating. I am scheduled for next surgery this Tuesday. I can take surgery pain but I am afraid of stent. I have been on levaquin almost a month and I will be admitted post surgery for iv antibiotics. I am praying that stent can be removed after surgery very soon. I am nurse and I am unable to work with stent. I feel everyone’s pain.

  8. John Gould says:

    Had a stent inserted on my right on 17/4/16 after severe renal colic and ureter infection.
    As noted in many comments I too need to urinate often. During this I have burning sensation in the groin lasting several minutes. The urine is mostly a mid Amber colour, I take relief that this is usual. Latterly I am unable to walk long distances as my bladder area feels like it is about to explode. Having been in good health all my life (I’m 56) and reasonably fit this worries me. I’ve recently had an x Ray and still don’t know when the stent is coming out. I have only recently found this forum and take comfort in not being alone in my anxiety.
    Good to know I’m not

  9. Karol CROW says:

    I nearly died from a kidney stone which blocked my right ureter on April 13th this year. Stent placement saved my life. I still have it in and removal is scheduled in 10 days. I guess I am the atypical one here because I have no side effects whatsoever. No pain, no bladder spasms, no urgency. I do occasionally have some blood in my urine. But I wanted to post this so that other people will know that it is possible to have a stent and not have pain. I will count my blessings that I am symptom free and hope I stay that way for the next 10 days.

    • Lejla says:

      Thank you, I’m having surgery this Friday and I take comfort knowing that someone had a relatively ok experience with the stent!

    • seh says:

      did you pass the stone. i have a kidney stone blocking my ureter and just had a stent placed. the stone is still there and if if does not pass, then its back to the OR

  10. Neil Armstrong says:

    I had by-lateral ureteroscopy on 5/4 with stint placement and was prescribed a 3 day supply of pain meds. Had to go to the ER on 5/6 do to unbearable pain peeing purple clot filled urine, ct scan done with the ER doctor finding fluid build up around back of kidney do to a likely ureter perforation my kidney function was at failure levels they admitted me and put on continuous iv drip 24hs a day with a bonus catheter discharged from hospital on 5/9 blood still in urine with a 5 day antibiotic. I haven’t had a bowel movement now for 10 days, despite lax suppository given while admitted. Was scheduled to have the stints removed on the day I was discharged, which they re-scheduled bastards. Was never advised or given script for Flomax after operation or during hospital stay which is supposed to help with post-operative pain again bastards.
    I received treatment by the 3rd best facility in the US. The only thing I can recommend to anyone having this procedure done is to research the doctor who is scheduled to do the operation and how many of these operations they have performed without complications’ do this by email get it documented. The true fact of the matter is the amount of pain and suffering that you end up going through after this procedure is directly related to the skill and experience of the urologist performing the operation. Less than 2 years performing these operations your are most likely better off picking a different urologist. How this operation got approved for outpatient treatment is beyond me. Thank you for letting me vent, I have the burning urge to pee so I must go now..

    • Susan says:

      My story is the same as yours. I also was not offered Flomax. I had a hard time getting the antibiotic filled- long story- so I was only able to start them 3 days post surgery. I have a stent on right side. Stent on left side was removed. They will not remove right stent until June 3rd. I also was in Acute Kidney Failure. Spent 5 days in the hospital. Both kidneys and both ureturs were full of stones. My kidney function level was 10.4. Now it is 3.4. Today something terrifying happened- I noticed that I was gushing dark red blood from a BM. Sorry to be so gross. I just was not expecting this as part of the process. They found out that I am anemic maybe this explains that. I need to go back to a doctor, but they take forever to see you. I think the ER might be overkill not sure.

  11. Amanda says:

    After reading some of these comments I suppose I’m lucky. I have had kidney stones for over 20 years, but just had to have surgery for the first time. My stone was 7mm but before I went to the ER I passed a piece the size of a popcorn kernal. I have all the same symptoms as described above. I am having to look at a clock and time how often I go. As soon as I urinate I stand up and the need to go feeling is back. I guess that would be bladder spasms. I feel like I’m holding it in and have to pee ALL the time. Mine has a string. I had lithotripsy and as long as everything im straining stays powder-like I get to have it removed in 2 weeks. I’m counting the minutes. I’m uncomfortable, no pain. The first day my urethra was sore and burned upon urinating, but that’s gone now too. I hope the spasms improve as time goes on. There is nothing like the pain of a kidney stone. The treatment isn’t great either, but I’ll take uncomfortable over screaming crying pain any day. Good luck to you all. This has been enlightening.

  12. Penny says:

    I presently have a stent reference to my surgery 5/5/2016 for stone removal. There is no denying they are painful. I know the clinical reason for them and know I must just deal with it. Just want to confirm to anyone dealing with this…I understand your pain. I have had several over the years and wonder if they could develop one that was not so painful. If you have a stent and are hurting….you are not alone.

    • Peggy says:

      I know the pain. Surgery for stone removal was 5/5/2016. I am still having the same amount of pain at times that I had prior to surgery but the surgeon says it is probably from the stent. Thankfully it comes out tomorrow. Fortunately the painful urination is gone and so is the urgency and the feeling like I have to go but nothing coming out. Also I can now sleep at night without waking up with extreme pain. Just can’t wait for the rest of the pain to be gone.

    • Michelle says:

      I feel like mine has shifted, and am having much more pain: This after thinking that everything had passed and the worst was over. Boy, was I in for a shock. This is my first time ever going to er over kidney stones.

  13. Oscar Bayol says:

    I had an systoscopy and ureteric exploration just last month and i was booked for stent removal next week, and i only use to see blood inside my urine only when i shake my body of enter car i will definitely see blood in my urine but i always do and try my best to take at least 300cl of water every day or more to make sure i have a clear urine and no frequent pain, burning sensation also less. And since i was on this condition i have never for once try to take any medication cos somes even makes ur condition in future time worst it suffers both ur kidneys and the liver. Pls be careful in taking any kind of medication for it is dangerous to ur health the best way is just for u to be taking alots of water it will help thanks, for more pls call 07061234325

  14. Robin Harris says:

    I just had stents put in on both left and right side due to large stones trying to pads at the same time. I have never felt pain like this. I have that painful urgent feeling of having to pee non stop. I can’t walk or stand because the pain gets so bad. I have suffered with kidney stones for 5 years now and I just want all the pain to just stop.

  15. Andrea Patterson says:

    My ex husband just had a kidney stone surgically removed that was 5mm in size. He now has a stent in temporarily so that he may pass the remaining stones. They gave him Vaseline and told him to put it on his penis but the didn’t tell him where he is suppose to put it. I am so embarrassed to even be taking about this but about this but does anyone know where he is suppose to apply the vaseline and why he needs to use it?

    Thank you for any help anyone can give me on this.

  16. Steve Balazs says:

    I just had an appointment with my Urologist and was told I needed Lithotripsy and have a stent placed. I was able to pass my 2mm stone but I also have an 11mm stone. Never had this treatment before. Any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Jude says:

      After stent is placed, drink lots of water. Lots! Make sure that you have plenty of pain meds, muscle relaxers, and anti spasm medicine. Use a heating pad and take hot baths. I drank cranberry juice as well. Also, if it’s too painful when you urinate, sit on the toilet and have your back straight. Let the flow come naturally. Good luck!

      • Michelle Ochs says:

        This is day 2 out of the hospital with a stent. Ever since placement, I pee just fine, but it is right at the end when the spasms hit so hard that I can’t breathe by the end of the spasm and the pain is so intense my right hand tingles like mad!!! Weird, I know. I do let the flow come naturally, but like I said, that very last moment, when the flow is stopping is the worst. Thank you for the advise though. I’m on hydrocodone….right. A probiotic, and cipro. Just about ready to try muscle relaxers.

  17. Jennifer Chupp says:

    Over the course of 7 years I have had 16 kidney surgeries and stent placements. I am a chronic kidney stone builder and suffer moderate-to-severe hydronephrosis with chronic pain. Stents are never a whole lot of fun, unless you enjoy the feeling of someone playing the congas in your back when you pee LOL. I currently have a stent now that has strings, and in my opinion it is one of the worst ones I’ve had yet. All but two of my stents were removed by my urologist. This will be the first that I have to remove on my own. The mornings and evenings tend to be the worst in regards to the pain, and Flomax and the pain medication is very little to help. I have been through the ringer with this kidney condition, but I refuse to lose hope. There is a light at the end of this very long, dark tunnel, and I am determined to find it! Please do not lose hope, kidney stents are different for everyone. Like I’ve said before, I have had several and with many of them, have not had any problems. I will keep you all in my prayers, get well soon!

  18. Mark says:

    Had mine inserted 1 week ago and as soon as i woke up from the anesthesia i was in excruciating pain,
    I was told that they couldn’t insert the stent till the top and that it didn’t curl in the kidney.
    Finally after a week i feel much better with the help of voltaren 100 .
    The most important thing is that you drink water and take a pill in the morning and another before you go to sleep.

    This was the worst pain i have ever felt and i m not fussy.

    • jscott says:

      I’m so uncomfortable. ..shooting pain which feels like in my ovary I have constant cramps…i feel like I have to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes…I’m so miserable…can’t get any relief

  19. Heidi p. says:

    I have had my stent since Jan 2016. This tuesday will be my appointment to have my stent removed. Lets hope it goes smooth and painless. Because im seriously tired of this pain its draining me😫

    • Bob Remmereid says:

      My girlfriend has had stent placed in her right ureter tube at least 3 times and will be going in for her fourth in a few weeks. She also has an ostomy on her right side which seems to make contact with the stent and causes her to double over with pain every so often. It will come on all at once and then after a time it goes away, but she never knows when it will come. Is this sound like the pain level a stent should cause?

  20. Sandra Kemp says:

    I have been having 6 monthly stent replacements since 2013 and usually have only minor problems. I constantly produce kidney stones and have frequent urinary tract infections. The stent has enabled me to live my life without going into hospital every few weeks with renal colic so I tolerate the side effects, which can sometimes be a real problem.
    The latest stent has been more of a problem but I put up with it as I know the alternative can be worse.

    • Michelle Czerniawski says:

      Sandra, I just had a stent put in on Easter of this year. It seems that I have to have it indefinitely.I have many questions and if you are willing to be of help I’d love to chat. Please email me at mishy0911@gmail.com or if you have a FB, please find me as well. It’s under Mishy Czerniawski. I’ll get back to you soon. Thanks so much

  21. Matt says:

    Read these pages the day before having an urgent Stent fitted to relieve pressure in my right kidney ( due to a couple of 5mm stones mid Ureter ) and frightened myself to death!

    Don’t panic!!

    Not been so bad. Immediate post op was pain free, ready to go home as soon as i passed urine which took a little time and effort and was for me the worst part of the whole procedure. Felt like trying to pee razor blades ( yep my eyes were watering also ) but this soon cleared after a day when swelling and inflamation calmed down.

    I do get the urge to pee more often but common sense tells you if its genuine or not. I also suffered from the pain mentioned by others in my flank when passing urine. For a couple of days this was very very uncomfortable, almost as bad as the worst renal colic I have ever had but….it lasts for 10-15 seconds tops. As soon as you finish peeing the pain stops. Then in the last couple of days I have realised that I have no pain when peeing if I don’t try and force the pee but simply relax and let gravity do the work.

    Still passing a little blood in the urine but I’m told its to be expected and its not an issue.

    I am only 5 days along on a potential 4-6 week journey but if you are about to have a Stent fitted its far from the end of the world. Its certainly not great but you CAN live with it OK and as long as you drink plenty of fluid and take your medication ( Tamsulosin etc ) there seems to be no reason to be too downbeat.

    Remenber its a means to an end which is to be stone and pain free.

  22. 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.

    • Stephanie says:

      Hello Julie,

      I am going to have a uteroscopic procedure in a few weeks and was told that the Dr. Always elects to leave the stent in. After reading the posts on this site and witnessing my best friends agony as she went thru the same thing last week; I am terrified!!!
      One common comment that I’ve noticed from this site and from my friend is that none of the pain meds are very effective.
      I came across a few patient forums from the UK and NZ and saw that server all patients had used suppository pain relievers. There were several comments about Volteren or diclofenac sodium in the suppository form. I’m going to see if my doc can order this type of medication for me.
      I hope that your pain goes away soon and that your kidney stones will too.
      Steph from VA

  23. 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 :)

    • Sandy Lindsey says:

      Jeane, I’m sorry for you having to go thru this for so long. It was my 1st time for an 8.5mm & 3mm stones in my right kidney this past April 18th. I’ve had a history of bladder & kidney infections & ureteral reflux as well. But the reflux was corrected as a child. I haven’t had my post-op appt with my urologist yet to see which kind of stones I had. I read that ACIDIC urine forms-1) ca oxalate 2) uric acid and 3) cystine stones. ALKALINE urine forms 1) struvite and 2) ca phosphate stones. If you are producing ca oxalate stones then you want to alkalinize your urine by 1) eating fruits & veggies 2) drink alkalinized mineral waters. 3) ask your dr for a script that may help (citrate). Now if someone needs to acidify their urine b/c of struvite or ca phosphate stones, then you may want to 1) drink cranberry juice or 2) ask your dr about Betaine as well. But make sure to run all this by your doctor before trying any of these pretty simple ways to help prevent future stones.
      God Bless, Sandy

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