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.


663 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. paula says:

    Had stent placed about two weeks ago waiting to have procedure to have my 9mm stone removed, mine stent came out last night when I urinated, so I hope I’m not in for another placement before I can have this procedure…..Have not had too much pain, no pain meds after 3rd day, and nothing more than Tylenol from the beginning.

  2. donna jones says:

    I have a stent since 10 dec 2014 as still waiting for lithotripsy, very uncomfortable, feel as if I have a knife urethrally, daily spasms, bloating, abdo and backpain, urinary urge and pain on micturition. Unable to work since, been told it will be at least a couple more months before I have lithotripsy, had 4 sessions in 2013!! Cannot cope with it !

  3. Kristen says:

    I just had my stent removed today and having it for 6 days and having surgery on my 13mm kidney stone. I didn’t have much pain at all and the pain that I didn’t have was easily taken care of with ib profin. The stent didn’t hurt when it came out but the noise of it scraping inside was the worst part. Kind of like nails on a chalkboard. And in having slight discomfort now but it’s starting to lighten up. Good luck:)

  4. Kyp says:

    My stent was placed on Friday , after 3 days for urinating claret, There is some stinging discomfort although manageable, There is two 8mm stones that are on top of the bladder, if no drop, the Urologist will play lazer skirmish next coming weeks.

  5. michelle says:

    I had a Stent put in a week ago. Still have the kidney stone also. Stone will be blasted in a few weeks as well as the stent removed.
    Honestly I hate it so much. I dont just have the constant urge to pee I actually am constantly busting, and I mean busting to the point you would normally have to bolt for the toilet. It’s the most uncomfortable and annoying feeling ever that I’m in tears most the day.
    Besides that tho I’ve found the pain in my kidney is barely there thankfully.
    As my blood was septic when I got to hospital I’m just glad I’m feeling better then what I did. Now to just fall into a really deep sleep and not wake up for 3 weeks would be awesome :(

  6. tina says:

    I had a stent on the 11 Dec then it was removed on the 3rd February. But after that I have pains on my abdomen sometimes I feel like there’s a movement on my abdomen it is actually I feel more discomfort than when the stent was in what to do I take pain killers but I don’t feel better

  7. Murray Warwarek says:

    I had a stent inserted in Dec 09 and it was with me for 7 days with a piece of string exiting my body for easy removal by my wife who was a nurse at the time. I was fortunate not to have experienced any discomfort whatsoever while the stent was in place and like many others, I held inner fears of what to expect when the time came to have it removed. It was not painful or uncomfortable as I had perceived it would be.

  8. Terry L. says:

    I had a stent placed on Wednesday afternoon prior to a lithotripsy procedure for a 15mm kidney stone. This was done under general anesthesia so when I initially left the surgery center I had no discomfort. I was given a script for pain medication but by the time my husband went to get it filled and came home the urinary frequency and pain in my kidney during urination was very painful but tolerable. I did not have sharp pains or what some describe as “razor blades” in my urethra; however, I was up all night with intense urinary frequency at least every 15 minutes. I had been using a heating pad on my back in the months prior to the procedure which was life saving throughout the renal colic due to the position of the stone. Anticipating back pain from the procedure, I was lying on the heating pad through the night. Around 6 am after at least thirty trips to the bathroom, I played the heating pad on my lower abdomen and within 15 minutes the urinary frequency sensation had calmed down. It has done wonders to relieve all discomfort related to the stent. I had done a ton of research on the lithotripsy procedure and stent placement follow-up and found nothing that indicated heat would calm down stent discomfort. In addition to writing this in hopes that it will bring comfort to other individuals experiencing stent discomfort, I wrote it in a survey that I filled out today post procedure, in an attempt to have it included in their discharge instructions for pain management. Good luck and turn up the heat!

    • ashley says:

      Thank you so much for the heating pad advice. I had a stent placed yesterday and am experiencing major discomfort with it. I had a ureterscopy done for 4 5mm stones on the right side. Heating pad relieved the urgencey to urniate every 15 minutes. Thank you again.

  9. Lori says:

    I had a stent placed 1week ago. I feel fortunate that I have not had any significant pain. I did have blood in my urine for about 3 days and slight discomfort upon urination but wouldn’t know I have a stent at all. I am nervous to have it removed next week.

  10. Sarah Sullivan says:

    I had a stent put in friday after having a large kidney stone removed doctors did tell me there will still be pain but gave me codine and paracetamol to help I have it removed in 2weeks also I have a small kidney stone in my left kidnet which is apparently to small to operate on hopeing I will past it, ive never had any health problems or surgery before but is scary, also bleeding very bad which im not used to, all I can compare the pain of kidney stone to is if your female would be child birth ( contraction) hope the bleeding stops after stent is removed, plus my partner feeling lonely as I cant have intercourse

  11. leandra webster says:

    I had gotten a stent put in last tuesday after i had surgery to get my kidney stones out and ever since my pain is excruciating in my bladder and kidney i can sa it hurts way worse than the kidney stones messed with me im 17 and they have me on hydros and they dont work worth shit i have blood in my urine and it hurts to uriniate is there anything i can take to help me get through this pain

  12. jojo says:

    I had a stent inserted for about two months, three months ago. Now, during intercourse it is very painful. I’m female by the way. So I’m wondering if any other females who’ve had stents experienced painful intercourse as well? Just curious if its stent related as it maybe be right near my urethera. Thanks!

  13. Tony says:

    My stents are giving me pain when I urinate the pain is bad and lasts 15 to 20 min after urination

  14. Misty B says:

    OK so I have had a Stent in for almost 9 months now I have to have a neph tube put in monday because my kidney is starting to shut down because of the stent that was placed. Monday the 26th it will be 9 months and when I am supposed to have surgery to take it out plus get my other kidney stones broke up. I am 27 and have had stones since I was 16 so yes i am excited to get this taken out but I am tired of the pain that comes along with a stent. Please if anyone will take my advice DO NOT HAVE A STENT PUT IN!!!!

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