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.

 

578 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Theresa C says:

    Went to ER on the 8th with pain at a level 15 on a scale of 1-10. I would have rather birthed set of 15lb triplets naturally than have this pain. Turns out 6mm stone on right side blocking all flow from kidney to bladder which was why the pain was so bad. Kidney was full of infection a fluid. Surgery the 9th to try to remove stone as a whole to alleviate the need for a stent. Well I came out of surgery with a damn stent, and kidney stone still in place. Could not remove stone and risk sepsis. Going back today after tons of Cipro and meds. The Oxybutinin is useless…. This is the most uncomfortable thing ever. I can’t bend over, stretch, squat, sit for too long, stand for too long, can’t even try to make a bm because it feels like I am pushing the stent out. I hope today, he schedules surgery for the next day or two and removes the stent at the same time as the stone. I can’t take this anymore. UGH!

  2. Crissy says:

    I had a 6.5mm kidney stone lasered yesterday and a stent placed! The stent is very uncomfortable and makes me have uti like symptoms. My doctor gave me Enablex and Uribell to help with the pain and spasms and it works really well!! He also gave me Rapaflo which helps me urinate better! He told me I could have some increase pain and blood clots because he had to use the laser due to my kidney stone being lasered!(he gave me norco for pain) I’m expecting a call to have lithotripsy set up BC I have a stone also in both kidneys! Doctor said he would pull my stent while I’m under for lithotripsy!! He also did many test and checked my parathyroid .. All normal!! He said according to what my stone analysis comes back, more than likely I will need HcTZ daily to help me get rid of all the extra calcium!!

  3. david creech says:

    I just got my stent removed yesterday.was the worst three weeks ever.pissing chunks of blood everyday and omg.today I’m so relieved and back to normal.

  4. didi says:

    Omg! I’m getting ready to have bilateral stones removed…. I have 3 on one side and 2 on the other 8 mm and 6mm….. im going to have to have a stent on BOTH sides… not looking forward to it….yikes

  5. Kathy says:

    Just got my left stent placed 3 days ago under anesthesia. Urologist was going to do PCNL on struvite stone on right kidney and place bilateral stents with second procedure following in a week to remove calcium oxalate stones; but was postponed due to something he found on CT scan. I was completely prepped for surgery- so he at least placed left stent. Now need contrast CT scan to determine problem on right. Don’t know why my primary didn’t order this in the first place. May have tumor which was obscured by cyst. Kidney stones in left did not appreciate their home being invaded, and that night had very painful attack on top of stent placement (or due to the stent, I just don’t know). I did not take the pain meds right away because I didn’t know how much discomfort to expect. My advice to all is take the pain meds right away before the pain gets ahead of you. Do not be afraid of the pain meds- they give them to you for a reason! Am now feeling much better and only have mild to moderate pain when urinating which is helped by some Tylenol. Am taking Flomax too. Pain is all relative to how much we have previously experienced. Always get a kick out of medical professionals asking “How bad is the pain on a scale of 1 to 10″. Well, I’ve been through labor, get cluster headaches and have had kidney stones so I am well versed in pain. I NOW take the narcotics when prescribed! Lessons learned.

  6. shelby says:

    Hello

    I had a stent put in Thursday on the left side very painful Dr said I could go back to work Friday I have had to call in the last 2 nights. I am so over this already. Does the pain last the whole time the stent is in if so I don’t have time for this I am in the middle of nursing school.

  7. carin says:

    here’s my story:
    on sept 5, 2014, I was in agony. agony for me being OK, Carin we’re going to the hospital. normally, I don’t go for back pain, but when my dad told me it was my kidney, I thought to listen. I have read horror stories of vomiting, pain during urination, and bloodin the urine. well, since I was due for my menses, I thought I was just having menstrual cramps. I didn’t notice how little I was urinating. I get in, and they feel and push on my back. come to find out, there’s a 1 cm sized (11mm) stone blocking my ureteral tube from draining my kidney, hence all that back pain. at this time, I’m watching the er doc RUN back and forth in front on me. so, I thought “now what?” they tell me I’m getting admitted, and in the morning I’m having surgery to have a stent place to drain the kidney. a nephrostomy tube will come out and drain the backed up fluid. OK, not too bad, until I find out about anesthesia (which is my worse fear). they made an attempt to go thru the bladder: no luck, so an hour later its thru my back. more anesthesia. I hate anesthesia! well, when I wake up, I’m in no pain, and there is a nephrostomy tube from my back, drainage bag on my left leg, and a Foley catheter in the front on my right leg. lovely. the next day, after much is drained, they remove my back tube but they neglected to communicate the stent is there, and tell me in two weeks, I have lithotripsy. lithotripsy went fine, more agitating anesthesia, and I don’t have pain or bruising from it. two weeks after that, I have an xray and find out lithotripsy broke it up, I should be passing it now. my worse experience at this point is when I pee not much comes out but I peed twice as many times as before this happened. also, I couldn’t stand or walk for more than five minutes, and I had the stent in for three weeks. when they removed it, a week ago, I had no pain after, and minimal pain during removal,and thankfully, NO ANESTHESIA! so far, my urination output as far as I feel is back to how it used to be. and I only had light flank pain for the first couple days after they took out the stent.

  8. Kaela says:

    I am 23 and I went in for surgery yesterday 10/09/14 to have stones removed from both kidneys and then stents put in both sides. I was put under for the surgery and when I woke I was in the worse pain. Then I started vomiting and it took almost a whole day at the hospital to get the pain and vomiting under control. That night I went home and finally ate for the first time in nearly 24 hours. It helps I thought I was about to take my pain medications and fall asleep. Only after a few hours of sleep I woke up to pee and that is when the extreme pain started to the point of vomiting. After battling pain and vomiting all night and morning I called the doctor. The doctor just instructed me to do what I was already doing. (Also the same as my discharge institution) I can’t seem to find any relief from this pain and discomfort. I am taking the max pain meds and using a heating pad and drinking enough fluids. Does anyone have any ideas to help at home?

  9. Mike says:

    I just finished removing my stent (string-pull at home method) minutes ago. I just stood over the commode and pulled gently and slowly. No feeling of the stent being stuck or resisting coming out.
    Only experienced minor “burning” sensation near tip of penis during the process, and some minor feeling of inflammation still exists.
    Last night and this morning I had not seen any blood in my urine, but there was a drop or two at the start of removing the stent.
    On my urologist’s recommendation I had taken a pain pill an hour before removing the stent.
    The stent was inserted by my urologist 5 days ago as part of a procedure (for which I had been sedated) which involved a ureteroscopy including her going in to break up a stone (5 x 7 x 8 mm) that had lodged where the ureter ended at the bladder, causing blockage and some minor swelling of the ureter and the kidney.
    Hope all of you have as mild an experience as mine was.

  10. Jan says:

    In 1981 during a pregnancy with twins my kidney ruptured from a congenital defect. There was a flap that grew over the ureter blocking the urine from draining into my bladder. With the twins at almost full term, the kidney ruptured. They attempted to try to repair it but it was finally removed. They had placed a stent inside for a while, it crawled up into my kidney and at that time they did not have a way to remove them. After heading to another medical facility who was able to help me, the kidney was finally removed. I was hoping things had become better by now.

  11. Buck says:

    See what Matt Ryan said October 6, 2014 at 7:04 am. (And I thought I had it bad.)

    ‘Enjoyed’ my first stone around 1996, when I was then 56 and made a daily 124 mile round-trip commute from N. San Diego County to Orange County. I arose at 04:45, hopped on my mountain bike, pumped 8 miles, came home, showered, hit the 8-to-21 lanes of traffic on I-5 and I-405, worked until 7 or 8, returned home, wolfed down dinner that wifey kindly reheated, went to bed at 11 . . . and started over at 04:45 the next day.
    That went on for the last 10 years before retirement. Told my boss (future CIO and GM of WalMart Global), “The job is easy; the commute’s a killer.”

    Just before lunch at work in ’96, I began to feel as though someone was pushing a large, flat-bladed screwdriver into my lower-right back. By 1 PM, I was peeing blood and the discomfort was pretty extreme. I wondered, ‘kidney stone’? By 6 PM and still at work, I was in pretty bad shape and faced the 62-mile drive home. Finally got there around 8, tried to eat something, and flopped in a chair, while waves of slow-roller spasms hit me.
    Finally told wifey I had to get to the ER. While completing the paperwork at the ER, I passed the first boulder of the night. Later, on a gurney, I asked the docs to shoot me up with something to relieve the pain. That worked and I napped for a couple hours, then went home.

    That was my intro to stones. Subsequent to ’96, I’ve probably ‘enjoyed’ 12-15 episodes, usually on the right side, none as severe as the initial event, and none requiring a return to the ER. I retired at the end of ’98, moved to SW Montana in 2003, and have enjoyed the mountains since.

    Then, on Aug 12, I awoke around 1:30 AM, thinking I was experiencing something like extreme constipation. The affected area was my entire lower back, and I ran from bed to bathroom to bed to . . . etc., trying to figure out what was going on. By 5 AM, the pain had localized on the right, I recognized the symptoms, and told wifey I was off to the local ER.

    A CT showed a 9mm bullet in the right kidney. Too large to pass, they said, so they sent me, totally doped up, to urologists in Bozeman. Wifey came through for me again, hauling us the 100-plus miles to Bozeman-Deaconess. Because modern medicine has found it prudent to place upwards of 400,000 middlemen between patient and doc, I was confronted with any number of helpful souls between the local ER and various medical departments in Bozeman. At each step, an interviewer held the equivalent of a clip board/laptop/desktop/mobile, and each questionnaire had at least one bullet item asking when the patient had last had a EEG/stress test/physical/pulmonary workup. My last ‘physical’ was in 1965, when I was mustered out from the USAF. Military discharge physicals are best described as “Looks good from door,” or “Don’t let the door hit you in the a** on your way out.” So I called time out and suggested the Bozeman docs request a complete benchmark be made at home. Keep in mind: the anesthesiologist is key and has to know the condition of the patient before commencement of any procedure. The anesthesiologist is the gate keeper who says “Go/No Go.” The more information the anesthesiologist has, the better. A baseline series was completed between Aug 18 and 25. I went back to Bozeman-Deaconess Sept 30 and had a lithotripsy procedure, which went without incident. The anesthesiologist was a young gal who, as it turned out, was a classmate of my immediate neighbor and family doc. She gave me a spinal during which I was unable to detect the needle . . . .

    OK. Lithotripsy. More effective than sonic blasting. Only downsides? The stent runs to the kidney. It might seem to be problematic. But it was not. Left in the body for (in my case) 7 days, I was unaware of the presence of the stent, but I was (7X24=168 hrs) constantly aware of the two thin wires that run from the stent through and out the urethra. Because the human body moves, them $#@%! wires move. By moving, they chafe, irritate, tend to exacerbate post-op bleeding, and constantly argue that the esteemed patient is either peeing his or her bloomers, or has to go to the bathroom . . . NOW!

    Other than that, the whole thing was a breeze.

    Stent came out today. I prepped by taking 2 oxycodone tabs one hour before seeing the doc. That helped mightily. The discomfort/pain during removal lasted about 3-4 seconds.
    Immediate aftermath? No chaffing or discomfort or need to run to the bathroom. Wifey no longer sneaking around behind my back, threatening to hook me up to truck jumper cables.

    Lesson learned? >>>===> Stay away from soft drinks. In my case, I was (past tense) a cola-holic.

  12. Matt Ryan says:

    Hello All,
    Thanks so much for all of your comments. I had a 3-4 mm stone removed from my left ureter on 10/02/14 and a stent inserted to stop any scar tissue from creating a blockage. I was constipated for the first 3 days post stone removal(basket /lasering) and the pressure was constant on my left side. I had unbelievable spasms on my left side in the recovery room, I am guessing due to the stent. I have burning upon urination and pressure going up to my left kidney every time I pee. I seem to always have an urge to have a bowel movement. the constipation was the worst, felt like throwing up once I started to go yesterday. now today I went again and it was better, but not normal for me. I am scheduled to have the stent removed in the doctors office on 10/14/14. I dont know haw that guy who said he was hiking did it. i am in good shape, 55years old and 260 lbs. i cant be away from the house, constant need to pee, and I cant stay erect for more than 20 minutes, have to lay horizontal to relive pressure. I will post more when I have it removed on the 14th, I am not looking foward to it..lol

    • Christina says:

      My husband had a stint put in 8/17/14 and had it removed on 10/7/14 and had a new one put in same day.it damaged his ureter the first one..my husband is a small guy he weighed 158 before all this now weighs 130 .is the weight loss normal??? For this type of thing? We had the procedure done at a county hospital they herded him in like livestock.in and out….extremely worried freaked out more like it over the weight loss..please let me know if u know if this is normal. Thank you.

  13. margo says:

    I had to have a uteral stent put in back in June because of a congenital blockage. I’m usually very tough and do not let hings keep me down. I haven’t called in sick in years, but this was as my husband put it, my kryptonite. found it to be extremely uncomfortable. I have a very physical job and I’m on my feet ALL day and the stent made it so painful about 4 hours into work and then when I would go to the bathroom there would be alot of blood.
    i found whenever
    i was in pain, there was alot of blood. Doctor says it’s okay as long as it’s not super thick. Had an endopylotomy now to take out the blockage and another stent.
    This one is mor painful than the first one. 4 months with stents and
    I am soooo over it.
    Want to feel like a normal person again and exercise and have fun.
    should be coming out on Tues and I can not wait. I’ll let you know if it’s as great as
    i’m hoping to get it out.
    hoping all problems solved!!

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