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.

 

1,799 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Robyn says:

    I had my stones lasered 6 weeks ago. I had the stent out today – I’ve had nothing but pain and discomfort since it was inserted. I thought it was supposed to allow the stones to pass more easily. Since I had it out about 6 hours ago I have passed 10 quite large chunks of stone – I hadn’t noticed any pieces since I had the stent in. Has anyone else had this? I’m scared there might be chunks left that will give me pain as they pass. SO fas, no pain with the ones I’ve passed today.

  2. Kimberly says:

    I have had many stents put in But I don’t think I have ever had this much pain from one, Funny thing is it don’t hurts any where but my sternum, My a stomach is bloated and I feel horrible, I have had 17 surgeries not counting all the stones and stents, I have never felt this bad, I am so tired and sore, Almost feel like I should go have it checked to make sure everything is ok!!

  3. Lulu says:

    Hello All,

    Just had my first surgical intervention with a stone (a little over 7mm) by a laser lithotripsy. Had the stent inserted on Thursday. I see so many different scenarios regarding how long the stent must remain. What normally determines the amount of time? The discomfort it causes is unbearable, I have the string at the end of mine and I’m ready to remove myself but figured that wouldn’t be wise LOL. I’m hoping I only have to do 5-7 days. Well wishes to all and looking forward to your responses!

  4. Chasity Bourda says:

    I think stent’s are very uncomfortable

  5. Jessica says:

    I just got a stint in yesterday and I feel like I have to pee all the time and it’s a little sore down there but nothing like the pain I went to the ER.

  6. Andrew says:

    I just had a stent put in and not getting it removed for 7 days I’m in bad shape tight now

    • Kim says:

      My husband just had one put in, we are day 4 post op…andhe is still in bed, on pain killers and passing a lot of blood. It is in for 2 weeks. It’s worse than we were expecting for sure!!

      • Julie Baptist says:

        The best thing he could do is try and get up and move around if it is only for a few minutes. Best of luck to him.

  7. Joel Paul says:

    Having a stent can be quite agonising at first, however you will slowly get used to it as I did. Let me share my experience, after the surgery, it felt like crap trying to urinate, I always felt pain at my groin and kidneys right when I was about to empty my bladder while urinating. For the first few days you will feel a stinging sensation when you pee, and not to mention the frequent urgency to pee literally in intervals of twenty minutes.
    However these symptoms will gradually subside as your body starts getting used to it, you to will learn how to live with a stent and will get used to it. Give it some days you will feel completely normal with it.
    Keep in mind , that it will cause some discomfort when u walk too much , run or jump and don’t be surprised to see blood in your urine. Especially when you are doing some physical activity.
    Also lot of water helps, keep your self well Hydrated, it takes away the discomfort of the stent.

    • Kim says:

      How many days before you found it tolerable? My husband is day 4 post op…and not feeling any better than day 1. Still constant pain, lots of blood in the urine and can’t tolerate movement without it causing pain and more blood passing. Stent is to be in for 2 weeks :-(

  8. Melissa Gaydos says:

    I believe I have the new Cadillac Model that desolves, but I will have to double check on that. 4:17am bladder spasms-shoke pain-body shakes-stomach heaves-puking.I guess It has been a day and a half, after pondering. How dose anyone get through this alone? Is the worst part over? I think I’m in for a fun 50th Birthday, exitting!

  9. Brenda Baxter says:

    What if I have a stone 11mm in size in the left kidney I have pain off and on mostly off but there is no obstruction I also have several stones in the right ureter that has been there 6 months or more and have not passed what should be done and should I be concerned

    • Julie Baptist says:

      You should have them removed. I had no idea I had a stone in either of my kidneys. The stone in my left kidney killed the kidney. I just had the right stone removed. I went into renal failure that’s how I found out about my stones. So do yourself a favor and have them removed. Good luck to you.

  10. Erin says:

    I just had surgery to remove a 7mm stone today. This is my first ever stone (and hopefully my last because WOW that was the worst pain I’ve ever been in). They put a stent in and it will be removed in 3 days. I am bleeding like crazy and the pain is pretty bad, not close to the stone pain but still VERY uncomfortable. Every time I pee it burns, towards the end of uriniating it feels like I’m releasing an air bubble which sends horrible pain in my right side and my back on the right side. Is this going to last all 3 days? I’m not sure I can handle it on top of feeling like I need to pee every 5 minutes.

    On the bright side my doctor told me he was going to knock me out when he removed it. I can’t believe people do it while you’re awake! That seems like torture.

    • Melissa Gaydos says:

      Hope your feeling much better, young lady!! Im right behind you, get well!!🖒🖒🖒🖒

    • L J says:

      You can also remove your own :) I just did that yesterday. Doc gave me the option after surgery – wait a week and either come back to the office for removal or remove it yourself. She left a string taped down and when the day arrived (thankfully) I pulled the string slowly and out it came. Definitely uncomfortable, really weird, and way longer than I expected. but it’s out!

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