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.


822 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Justin says:

    Ten days ago I had 10 stones broken up and had three ureteral stents put in due to duplicated ureter on right side. I have been in the worst pain of my life. I have an spot today to remove the stents but I am concerned because I have only been able to urinate in drops for about 3 days . Although I do the drops about 15 times a day it just hurts to the point if I was standing I will collapse. I also have a uti on top of everything that antibiotics don’t seem to be touching. Has anyone seen this before?

  2. Charlemur says:

    I had surgery on 5th June, to remove a relatively small stone from my right kidney. The surgeon used “basket” stone removal and a stent was placed to help my kidney drain correctly. I had the stent removed on Thursday 18th June and have had nothing but problems! The nurse advised that I may experience mild discomfort when urinating for a few days, may have tummy pain for a few days and should expect to see blood (or pink tint) in my urine for up to three days. Fine. Anything should be better than having a stent in, right? No. After the stent removal, immediately was able to have a huge wee – relief, little no pain. However, as the night went on a “pressure” started to build up. I felt like I was bursting for the loo, but couldn’t manage more than a dribble. My back was aching and my right side throbbed. I took four paracetamol and still the pain / discomfort was not manageable. I was able to soothe the pain (at 3am Friday morning!) with a hot bath, alternating between urinating and jumping back in the hot water. Friday day time was much better and I thought things were looking up. I had no blood my urine but still felt slight twinges / discomfort when going to the loo. I’ve also felt that my bladder isn’t really emptying? What feels like a normal wee to start, starts feeling uncomfortable and forced after a short while. This morning, back twinges and kidney aches (not pain as such) and dark urine with blood. It’s been almost a week since my stent was removed? I’m going to book in with my GP as soon as it opens, but wondered if anyone else had these problems since stent removal? I might add that I consider myself to have a mega high pain threshold! Thank you.

  3. I just wanted to echo everyone else’s joy over finding this site. Finally somewhere I can go to communicate with folks who have experienced The Dark Crystal. I just had Philosopher Stones #9 & #10 removed. I am enjoying a lovely stent right now that makes my kidney feel like it is going to explode each time I urinate. Luckily I only have to have it in over the weekend. On 9 Jul 2015 I am having #11 shook to pieces so that I can experience the joy of urinating broken glass. I look forward to it. The worst part about being a master glass maker with my body is the insensitivity. After about a day or so folks tend to get use to you being in pain all the time. Oh, and the dilerium/constipation from all the Vicodin isn’t making like any peachier either. You know what now that I think about it the worst part about having a stone is having them. The best part is knowing that I have experienced the same level of pain that my wife did while having my son. Levels the playing field just slightly. ^^

  4. Kalomi says:

    Wow! I’m thankful that this site exists and so many have shared their experiences! Last Monday morning, I woke up feeling nauseous and my back ached on the right side. I went to work anyway, but not for long. The symptoms worsened. I returned home and within a couple of hours ended up at the ER via ambulance. That evening, I was in surgery receiving a spent in my right kidney. A 6mm stone was lodged between my kidney and bladder. Urine was backed up and my kidney was infected. There are more kidney stones, including a 5mm ready to depart down the ureter. My pain before surgery was a 9. After surgery and for the remainder of the week my pain level ranged between 4 & 7. My severe constipation made it worse. Today is my first day home. Despite all of the pain medication, I am unable to stand more than 15 minutes. All day long, I’m drinking water with a little lemon juice or MiraLax. I still have blood in my urine. My employer insists that I go on short term disability. Now I’m very worried about how long it may take to pass or remove the two stones and recover. Has anyone else dealt with STD and this health issue? Are there things that I need to be aware of or make note of to ensure that I have my job to return to? Thanks again to everyone who has shared here!

  5. Savannah says:

    I had a stent put in last night due to a golf ball size stone and a huge fatal infection. L i cant pee with out crying an peeing blood an or dark discharge. Extremely constipated not eve ln laxatives help. Im in so much pain pain meds dont even help. Anyone know any remedies to help

    • Shortcake says:

      My mom swears by a glass of water with concentrated lemon juice everyday. You can also make the water hot and that will help with constipation. My grandfather swore by that. Another thing I heard was cranberry pills or juice. My family has always been big in homeopathic remedies. See if you can find a chiropractor who works with holistic remedies. All my opinions and experiences. Good luck.

  6. Cindy says:

    On Tuesday I went to the hospital via ambulance, I have a kidney stone that is 6mm, they said it’s to big to pass on my own.. So anyways on Wednesday I go in for Urologic Surgery and they place a stent in, the doc told me he could not remove the stone because I had an infection, which caused high temperatures inside and he said it would be fatal and too dangerous if he removed the stone, so therefore he placed a stent in place so that I could urinate, I was admitted in the hospital for 4 days and he sent me home with percocet and antibiotics to clear the infection so that in 2 weeks he can go in and take out the stone & the stent.

    My question is,why is my vagina feeling like its on fire ever since the surgery and it really hurts and burns.. has anyone else had this problem?

    • Mary Ann says:

      I had lithotripsy last week and a stent placed. I had antibiotics as a caution, but no infection. With the stent and bloody urine, I felt like I was developing a yeast infection or something. It ended up just being that area was irritated from the urine. With the infection and everything that’s in your urine, your whole area is likely just irritated. I had my stent removed today and I now have no burning or itching down there at all.

    • Steven says:

      no worries, unfortunately that burning fire sensation is somewhat common. Nothing is wrong it’s just a side effect of having a stent in. you can ask your doctor to prescribe some anti-spazmatic medication which will help if the pain meds do not. for lack of a better way to put it its normal.

    • Maria Todd says:

      Dear Cindy,

      I know just what you are talking about. I learned in Feb. of this year I have Cervical Cancer. A few months later, I still could not have chemo because of problems with my kidneys. A stent was placed June 9th, and it has been hell every since. I never knew I could have so much fire and pain in my vagina. I hate to drink anything and to have to pee. The stent is your problem. It seems everyone with stent placement does not have this problem, but for those of us who do, it’s vagina hell!!! One sure thing I know is that your bladder is having spasms.

      I am so sorry for your condition because I am going through this right now and know what you are feeling. One thing it seems you’re missing and I’m glad you are, is that the pain is not also running up your back also. The first time that happened, I wanted to jump up from the commode. I pray your condition goes away because that’s a hellish pain to go through all day, everyday. Be blessed

    • Chazz says:

      I had the same surgery. I’m male but its just some side effects from the surgery.

  7. Donna says:

    I often pass huge 8mm stones but this time we found a stone over 2 centimeters. . That’s slightly smaller than a golfball. The stent is driving me crazy this time. I go back for another procedure on the 16th of June. I’m going to beg him not to leave the stent in for too long.

  8. Zoe says:

    My husband had surgery last week to have a large stone in his kidney broken up with a lazer. The surgeon explained that a stent would be left in for approx 2 weeks to allow debris from the surgery to pass without causing a blockage. In the end the surgeon could not remove the stone because of its position and no lazer surgery was performed. However, the stent has been left in place and is causing my husband immense pain at times and lots of bleeding: he is now on anti biotics for an infection and more medication to prevent the bleeding. We have questioned why the stent needs to be left in place and have been informed it is common procedure incase there is any swelling following the surgery. Does anyone know if this is the case as I can’t help feeling we are being misled. My husband went into hospital a well man with no pain and is now in pain much of the time which all seems unnecessary as there is no debris to flush out.

    • Mary Ann says:

      It was explained by my urologist that if the stone couldn’t be reached by laser, they would place a stent in so that they could go in next step and the tubes would be wide enough (with the stent) to reach the stone. There is swelling when a stent is placed, so they wait until it goes down before they go back in to get the stone.

    • Teresa says:

      They leave the stent in so that the urine can travel from the kidney to the bladder without blockage from the stone, otherwise you could end up in renal failure.

  9. Mary says:

    Thank you everyone. This site has been so helpful. I live in UK and had operation on 28 April to have a large tumour which was attached to my kidney removed. Kidney was ‘shaved’. Didn’t realise I’d had a stent inserted, local doctors thought I just had infection when I had awful pain. Three lots of antibiotics and tests showed I didn’t have infection. Then discovered I had this stent and pain has become unbearable, bad enough trying to recover from effects of operation without this. Even nurses who have been coming to give me daily injections knew nothing about stents and their side effects. Only reading all your comments has made me realise I’m not alone. Can’t wait to have this thing taken out in three days time but dreading it at same time. I will have a one and a half hour journey to and from hospital which I’m not looking forward to either.

  10. naomi says:

    I have just come out of surgery today i had a 8mm kidney stone in my right kidney so far they have put a stent in, yes its a little uncomfortable as you can feel slight niggling pains in your bladder and a few in your kidney, but it is very good so far. Also i possibly have to go for shockwave treatment to blast the stone but so far so good.

  11. Cc says:

    I just had laser lithotripsy and stone removal about 8 hrs ago. I had been trying to pass a stone for about 2 months that was asymptomatic the majority of the time but finally got stuck a half inch from my bladder. I was worried about the stent after reading some of these posts but even with the blood and painful urination it is a huge improvement over the pain of an obstructed ureter. Maybe I am just lucky but doc said not everyone responds the same way. I now wish I had not put it off for so long. Good luck to you all!

  12. Manuj Trivedi says:

    Hey all you people please help!
    I am recommended from selection board for leutinent post in army and had my medicals as a part of selection procedure.I have been diagnosed with one 5mm stone in right kidney and 3 stones in left kidney biggest of which is 10 mm.
    I want to ask all you people what is the best possible treatment I can undergo
    I have only been allotted 30 days to resolve this issue.please guide me.

    • nisha mittal says:

      Lithotripsy or Ureteroscopy would work best.i got operated on 23may 2015 for 12/7/6 mm stones in my right kidney.

    • Kris says:

      I’d go for ureteroscopy w/ holmium laser lithotripsy instead of extracorporeal lithotripsy or percutaneous (cut thru the back) removal.

      That’s what I’ve chosen.

      • Kristen says:

        I second the Ureteral cystoscopy w/ holmium… Had my 3rd one done a month ago on a 1.7m stone. Stent was removed yesterday.

        And, besides doing a nutritional cleanse and changing lifestyle to try to forego anymore stones, I am also trying a 3 mo supply of Renavive like Kris said below.

        Aaaand, this just in, a prescription is waiting for me at Walgreens. That means I’ve still got an infection if it’s an antibiotic. They didn’t communicate anything to me. Joy.

        Thanking God for medicine… and the Gospel, without which I’d have no hope.

      • Kristen says:

        I’ve also read that deficiency in magnesium is a precursor to stone formation…
        Read more here…

      • Kristen says:

        I’ve also read that deficiency in magnesium is a precursor to stone formation…
        Read more here…

    • Kris says:

      Also awaiting the arrival of a new product I’ve never tried before called renavive. It’s supposed to help in the dissolving, passing, and prevention of future stones.

    • Bonnie L Weiss says:

      Stents are not usually optional..if you have lithotripsy or ureteroscopy with will need a stent to help pass the stone fragments and prevent swelling of rhe ureter thus leading to potential obstruction…Usually a week..sometimes longer.
      My first stent after lithotripsy of a 13mm stone…it was very horrible as the pain is due to spasms of the ureter and bladder. Over the counter AZO helped quite a bit..not completely..but got me through the week.
      Just had ureteroscopy on Wednesday…with another stent placed..I dredded the thought…but this problems. Not sure what was different..but glad for a much better experience. Stent gets removed today. yay!!.
      Good luck to everyone..keep with a low oxolate diet for “calcium oxolate stone formers” it helps keep down the amount of stones made..every little bit helps.

  13. Rita fimano says:

    Had a 16mm kidney stones…first surgery went well a stinct was put in places for a week.went bake into hospital to remove stinct.when he did the tube was blocked. This slow down the function of the right kidney. So I ended back at the hospital for the 3rd time. This time he saved my life with another stinct which I will keep for 2 weeks. Now the second doc I saw wants us file chargeres

  14. amichellec says:

    I had a second stent put in on Tuesday 5/19/15 and was okay for the first 24 hrs, after that I can feel every time I move, it is very uncomfortable. I am supposed to take it out on my own tomorrow which is 5/22. Does anyone know if this is painful? Thank you, I am so nervous.

  15. Kevin says:

    This morning I found out I have a 12 mm kidney stone. My first one in over 15 years. My urologist said I could either have a stent put in or go with lithotripsy. I’m taking it from all the reviews I’ve read I should go with the shockwaves and the lithotripsy. Is there anyone out there who can recommend a stent?

    • Cristina Saengsuriya says:

      Hi Kevin, I am not a doctor but I had a 7 mm stone removed in Germany with flexible ureteroscopy…after they broke it down wth laser. It’s been a week since then and 3 days since I am out of the hospital.The stent causes unbearable pain…but I am still alive :).I studied a lot my options also because in the process of investigations I found out I have a tight ureter. My opinion is that it all depends how ur stone breaks after the procedure. If the pieces are small u will be fine. But if the stone is hard…plus that is quite big…it might break in bigger pieces that might fall in ur ureter and cause more complications. So my advice…get the stone out right away and discuss wth ur doctor possible complications of lithotripsy also…it is not as easy as it sounds…hope u get well soon!

    • Bonnie says:

      Stents are not usually optional..if you have lithotripsy or ureteroscopy with will need a stent to help pass the stone fragments and prevent swelling of rhe ureter thus leading to potential obstruction…Usually a week..sometimes longer.
      My first stent after lithotripsy of a 13mm stone…it was very horrible as the pain is due to spasms of the ureter and bladder. Over the counter AZO helped quite a bit..not completely..but got me through the week.
      Just had ureteroscopy on Wednesday…with another stent placed..I dredded the thought…but this problems. Not sure what was different..but glad for a much better experience. Stent gets removed today. yay!!.
      Good luck to everyone..keep with a low oxolate diet for “calcium oxolate stone formers” it helps keep down the amount of stones made..every little bit helps.

    • Kristen says:

      With any of the 3 common KS treatments,
      1. extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy,
      2. ureteroscopy w/ holmium laser lithotripsy or
      3. percutaneous removal
      a stent is placed to permit the kidney to drain normally and allow any fragments to travel out.

      Best regards.

  16. Dennis Hanna says:

    I have had four of them put in over the years and I think I can say that each of them were all about the same discomfort. I have had this one in for only about a week and a half. I don’t have a lot of pain but it makes me feel very fatigued and the feeling to have to continually urinate witch makes it very hard to go to work. I have not taken any pain meds because of work witch makes it a little more unbearable. And then, theirs that point of the duration where you have to have it taken out! (Mine is in about 3 hours) its a very unpleasant few minutes and for probably about a day or so you feel like your urinating broken glass again but when your out of all that, you feel like a new person. I’m not sure why I keep getting kidney stones like I do but if you don’t want to keep getting them a lot look I do, beg your urologist to come up with a preventive diet for you and stick with it. Everyon, have fun with your stents….LOL..I know I won’t and try not to get any more.

  17. Laurie Reynolds says:

    I had a 3cm stone on my left kidney. They surgical busted up the stone but didn’t get it all. So the stent was place in from my kidney through the ureter and down to my bladder. This next Friday they will attempt to remove the rest of the stones. But this stent is killing me! It hurts so bad. My back, side and bladder. Just be prepared.

    • Cristina Saengsuriya says:

      Hi Laurie. I had a7mm stone removed on the 20th via flexible ureterscopie and have a stent in. I have to keep it for 2 months because the dr said my inner wall of the ureter sustained lesions and need time for healing. Ur sympoms sound a lot as mine. It’s been a week since the procedures.I take a lot of medication but I cannot walk right…I have to use walking sticks. I have pain from my kidney down to my ovary.Luckily no pain when urinating. But I can’t sleep on any of my sides ,just on my back. Morning are the taughest when I have to strugle out og brd after being for so long in the same position.the dr said it is all from the stent. Do you habe any tips of how to overcome this lack of mobility and pain?I am from germany.hope u get well soon

  18. Walt Knutson says:

    Can a stent cause a lesion(s) to form in the bladder?

  19. i thought I was weird laying in a hospital bed on morphine after my stent was put in yesterday. Sounds like I am going to be miserable for weeks to come. I have seven kids to care for, one is a new baby. I can’t be passing out when I pee. I will tell you I would rather be in labor. Everyone I move the pain gets worse, even when I sit up it gets worse and I have to go home tomorrow. How the heck am I to take care of my kids. I was told there would be slight discomfort so I thought I was being a big baby. At least I am glad to hear it’s not just me. I am not even as bad off as some of you. I admit it hurt worse than the stone,especially since my stone didn’t hurt at all. It was big enough the had to make incisions even after the laser. I am on two pain pills and morphine and I have to curl in a ball and just cry. Good luck to you all.

    • Melyssa says:

      I just had my stent removed after 2 weeks. It was hell the whole time. I couldn’t take care of my 3 kids. I had to lay flat in my bed with heat on back and stomach and 2 percocets every 4-6hrs. Sorry

    • Cristina Saengsuriya says:

      Michelle…if u can still curl in a ball and cry it is still good. I had a stone removed wth laser this month 4 days ago.I had to leave the hospital because I was getting sick of the environment.I have so much pain….my husband has to carry me out of the bed and lift me in.I can only lay on my back and once I am on my back I have no strengh to move hurts like crazy when I laugh…when I cry…when I sneeze.I had a stent in before this one as well…for 2 weeks but got used to it and I was timing my medicine and the urination at close times.also the first stent I got only gave me pain when urinating and if u can lift ur leg easily on the wall to one side u might notice the pain is not so bad…this worked for me wth my first stent. But now I can hardly step on my left leg. I hope u feel better by now. Let me know how is ur recovery going maybe I can learn from it. I am from Germany. Be strong.from Cristina

  20. jo says:

    It is over and I am relatively pain free. Readers need to know that not everyone is miserable.

    My big stone was 171 mm & I had 9 others. Using ureteroscopy & laser lithotripsy, the doc spent about 2 hours breaking up stones. The first 36 hours were nasty because of cramps, spasms, bleeding and feelings of urgency and burning with urination. After the first 36 ours I sat, reclined or laid to relieve the discomfort. A massaging heating pad became my new BFF.

    I followed advice I found on the internet from a urology clinic in Missouri on how to time and combine meds for the least miserable stent removal possible. My doc had advised I drink sufficient fluid to make my urine clear for 3 days prior to removal. Something did the trick. There were 2 small pinches but no pain.

  21. Ellen says:

    I just had an 8mm stone removed from my left kidney. They placed a stent in for healing purposes and it is extremely uncomfortable! I have NO pain from the kidney, none anywhere except where the stent is sitting at the base of my vaginal opening. The best way to describe it for you ladies is that it feels like a mis-inserted tampon and you cant get comfortable with it. Hopefully he will allow me to remove it sooner rather than later.

    • April says:

      I feel the same way. Ive had mine in almost a week I’m getting it out tomorrow, but I do find I have pain in my bladder, not unbearable tho. But yes after the first two days when it stopped hurting when I peed, I did find the sensation of having a tampon on in that wasn’t sitting right. I am very excited to have it removed, although I’m nervous to.

    • Patti says:

      I had the exact same feeling. I had my stent put in May 29 because of damage from my kidney stones. I’m getting it removed Mon June 22. Can’t wait, so miserable. It feels just like a tampax inserted wrong. When I urinate I feel pressure and don’t feel like I can empty my bladder.
      I was told not to bend or stretch, and I think I might have done that the few times I was in my car twisting for my purse……I was really tired of laying down all the time. Yes, I’m nervous about getting it removed also.

  22. mamamia says:

    I had a large stone, apparently VERY hard, for a number of years. My back started hurting – an ache, throbbing. The doc said it’s the stone, did the electrode surgery where they blast it from the outside of your body. Then they put a sting in so that there are no problems with the broken up stone coming out in urine. Unfortunately, the blasting didn’t break it up all the way, so about 3 weeks later, I had to have the laser through the bladder and ureter. That worked. I had the surgery two days ago. The first time i had a stent with the electrode surgery, I was pretty miserable for a week but never took anything for pain. I took a stool softener and the stuff that anesthetizes your bladder (the orange pee stuff). I was never without the stent during the last 3 weeks…they took it out only to do the laser surgery, and put another one back it. Again, I am sort of miserable but the meds I mentioned helped a lot. The absolute best thing that helped me was a heating pad. That thing has become my very best friend!! I get this stent out in 3 days, and I can’t wait. By the way, the doc said they put the stent because the ureter is a muscle and because it squishes together (like the intestines do), if a stone goes through it, it can really cause problems with the sharp points of the stones.

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