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.


625 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Mary Comeaux says:

    I had stent removed from kidney to urethra 5 days ago and still have burning and spasms, has this happen to anyone else, my urethra was nicked in surgery and that is why I had the stent for six weeks, help

  2. Susie says:

    I have had kidney stones for the past 10 years and have had to have them surgically removed three times. The worst part for me is having the stent in. I have always had issues with them. They have always been very uncomfortable and painful for me. I have never passed any stones while they have been in and they just make for a very uncomfortable recovery. My stones have been as large as 10 mm, which are pretty large and am unable to pass on my own. I guess, I don’t understand the reasoning for the stent (well I do), but I don’t because they have never done anything for me except cause me discomfort. I’m pretty fortunate after reading some of your posts because the longest I’ve ever had one in is 10 days. My heart goes out to you that have had them in for months!!! How do you do it? The removal of the stent is not bad. They give you a little numbing medicine and grab the string and pull it out. It takes a matter of seconds. Good luck to you all who are having to go through with your processes and I wish you all the best.

  3. Joy Nabarro says:

    I have just had a stent removed only three hours ago with local anaesthetic, I thought I was having a general like I did when I had it put in, so I got a shock, and was a little upset at the thought of being awake !!
    Anyway it was a bit uncomfortable, but fortunately it is over quite quickly, I am sore and still got the stinging feeling, but the specialist said to drink plenty of water, and everyday it will feel better, I hope so, in bed at the moment feeling quite drained, and waiting and hoping the stinging sensation will subside soon
    Wishing everyone who has to have a stent removed soon GOOD LUCK

  4. Maria Ann says:

    Hey I’m 21 years old and have kidney stones which the doctors say is very unusual. I have not had 2 ops in the last 5 days as the stone was so big it was blocking my tube the first op they blasted it but was still too big to come out leaving me in serve pain again! I had the stent put in today and I’m feeling very sick has anyone had this? Got to go back to 2 weeks to get it removed. Also does anyone know how long it takes to pass stones with a stent?

    Thanks x

  5. Burt says:

    I haven’t slept for the past two nights worried sick about having my ureteral stent removed today which has been in place for 14 weeks due to a blocked ureter following a pelvic mass and abscess which have both now been removed. I was physically shaking when I went into the treatment room however, I was so surprised about how easy it all went. Yes there was discomfort but it was quick. The whole process from beginning to end was just a few minutes. I’ve been told to drink plenty and take paracetamol if needed but so far I seem ok, fingers crossed it will stay this way. I apologise for posting on the Kidney Stoners forum as I haven’t actually been unfortunate enough to experience stones recently (I have in the past)but it was the only place I could find anything regarding kidney stents. I do feel for all you poor people who have had a horrible time when you’ve had your stents removed but reassurance for others who have yet to go through the procedure that not everyone experiences such pain and discomfort. Having said all this, having the stent in place was murder and I am so relieved now that it has gone. I’m only having a trial without at the moment and if it doesn’t work, have been told that they will try me with a metal stent instead which apparently causes virtually no discomfort. For me anything is better than having the pigtail stent that I endured. Good luck to everyone with their stent removal.

  6. robert michaels says:

    I had ESWL (blast) 60 hours ago. Multiple Stag Horn stones in a 18 mm cluster ball. I had passed 3 stones on my own 12-15 yrs ago. Stent is in place which I was apprehensive about though I know is necessary and I after my research would have requested it. The only time I feel the stent is sitting upright on a hard surface like the commode. A distraction not painful. The only complication, so far, is after 2.5 days I have had to urinate literally 250 times (uncomfortable not painful the first 6-8 hours). I think the Stent is giving me the ” need to urinate” sensation. I will call tomorrow for a script to help with that urge. I will probably need a second Lithotripsy. I will update as this journey continues.

  7. Dewburry says:

    Due to have my stent out on Monday after being in place 3 months. I am terrified. Can anyone enlighten me as to how this feels. I understand I will be given a local anesthetic but that’s all. Should I take pain meds prior to the procedure and does it hurt afterwards? My stent was due to a blockage in my urethra caused by a pelvic mass not by kidney stones. Thank you.

  8. Karen says:

    I had to have a kidney stone removed and a stent put in 3 days ago. Beforehand I was looking up information and all the comments made about it being painful etc had me terrified. So I’d like to let people know how it was for me. Its uncomfortable when i urinate, it feels like a period pain, not painful and unbearable like I imagined it to be. I’m totally unaware of the stent when I’m resting its only with urinating. Paracetamol and ibuprofen taken together help. Blood in the urine does settle. It’s better than the kidney stone pain thats for sure. I had mine put in under general anesetic and will have it removed in 2 weeks while asleep as well. So if your reading these comments, dont panic that it will be painful, you will be okay. My surgeon said its only 1 in 20 that find it unbearable.

  9. Ana says:

    Please check all the details of the stent procedure and don’t let anyone tell you it is painless because its not I am looking for a private hospital to get a stent removed after a colectomy surgery because Kaiser refuses to do it under sedation and I refuse to let this doctors pull a tube from kidneys in his office without any pain medication. Is going to cost my a couple of thousands dollars it sucks because we pay Kaiser 1,200 a month thinking they will provide the right medical care, well they don’t its all about money and this procedure its expensive they rather have you deal with the pain. This is not right! I am canceling my insurance with Kaiser they are the worse>

    • Jody says:

      I’ve had 3 stents removed. 2 with a tether string and one with a Cystoscopy (??). The string removal takes less than 20 seconds to get out and under 5 for the other way. All 3 were removed while I was awake and weren’t bad at all, actually felt relieved. They freeze your urethra with a numbing lotion for the Cystoscopy and nothing for tether removal. My first tether removal was done at home, in my bedroom by my spouse and second one done by my family doctor in my local ER. The Cystoscopy was done in an outpatient area of hospital but I suspect that is because my doctor does not have the equipment in her office. The surgery for insertion definitely needs to be done while put under but the removal is really not bad.

  10. Linda says:

    My daughter had a cystoureteroscopy done to remove a stone that was seen on ultrasound. They said she could not pass it. The doctor could find no stone during the procedure. She had a stent placed and is supposed to have it removed in one week. we had to pay Humana a $1000 copayment and no stone removed so pretty much all for nothing. Now they are telling me I have to pay another $1000 copayment to have stent removed. If the doctor had put a stent with a string on it for removal they cannot charge for this procedure. If we had known this up front we would not be out another 1000. Check with your insurance company before you get robbed like we did!

  11. lily Yo says:

    I am sitting in the ER bed waiting to be admited. Had a baby 8 weeks ago csection. Pain brought me here very bad. Scan showed inflamation on kidney ureter and bladder infection. They want to have a stent put in. I am not sure is the right thing to do here. Scared

    • Anitha says:

      I am on the same boat as you are. Had a baby on September 3rd via repeat csection. Around 8 week got very high temperature and had infection. Was hospitalized and diagnosed with kidney infection. Came home and again had same symptoms second time hospitalized and this time they said kidney inflammation due to right ureteral block and had a stent inserted on November 10th… past 3 weeks have been really painful and uncomfortable. Will be taking out the stent on Dec 3 after 3 weeks of having it on. Hope that everything is cured by now as am still not sure if this was the right thing. How are you feeling and what dis the doctor ?

    • shaynee says:

      I recently had a baby as well. About two weeks ago I had a CT done and I have kidney stones that I can’t pass. I just had a stent placed and taking bactrium. Don’t be scared talk to your doctor. What scary is having nothing done kidney stones are serious. Good luck and congrads on your new baby

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