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.

462 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Alison says:

    It’s been 4 weeks since I’ve had my stent inserted, at first it was very painful then it settled down but for the pass week the pain has come back but know I’m unable to settle in bed to sleep even to sit down to long I’m in pain walking just the same I take loads of pain killers but nothing seems to help I’m also on antibiotics which I have been since December 2013 it feels like something is stab me under my ribs is it possible that the stent could have moved? if any one has similar complaint please tell Thank you…

  2. Jami says:

    I thought I was in a predicament when I had to go to the emergency room and found out I had a obstructing kidney stone, seems that was the least of my worries. The doctor ended up putting a stent in and left it there for a week. He told me to come back the following week to get it out. Now he is refusing to do the procedure because I don’t have insurance. I cannot afford what they’re asking full price. Can they just leave it there? Is it safe? The pain is unbearable. I’m a single mom with 2 kids, I can’t be doped up on narcotics all the time.

  3. Zeefa says:

    I found out I had a stone in my utera the docs in NYC did nothing but give me pills,,, I was admitted back to another hospital in another country in February for the same pain which concluded in me hvn a stent placed in me on the 17 June long time to wait,,,I no ,,,but before my pain was mild,,,since d stent has been placed d docs hv yet to find a stone in my,,,no X-rays shows of anything but I was told to keep the stent in me until 28 august which is terrible since the stent was inserted I can’t walk wen I do my hips cracks,,,alot of vomiting and bowel problems which involves the passing of blood but the doc refuse to remove the stent I don’t no wat I can do,,,I don’t hv the string to pull out so I hv to wait,,,worst thing is,,,,the pills I was prescribed I can’t locate them anywer,,,and did my research and found out the meds prescribed is not pain killers it a drug which acts on your centre nerve system….I need advice on what I should or can do?

  4. Shelly says:

    I have had bi-lateral ureteral stents for about 11 years now, with routine exchanges. I have stents due to desmoid tumors (a soft tissue sarcoma) encasing both of my ureters. When I first started on my stent journey being near the restroom was imperative. But my urologist prescribed Detrol to help alleviate the urge. After the first few exchanges I discontinued the Detrol as I believe my body just adjusted to them and calmed down. Well of course I just got home a few hours ago from a same day surgery to exchange them and I am in PAIN. I’ve tried pain meds, a heating pad and lots of water and I am still feeling the pain. I might just have to text the doctor and see what he suggests to do. Good luck to all of you, I feel your pain. Literally!

  5. Yvonne says:

    I really feel all of your pain.

    I have what is my first and hopefully my last Kidney Stone.

    I just wanted to check that the pain i am feeling now is just part and parcel of the stent that i have inserted.

    The stent i thought was put in so that the stone could be delivered?
    When the Consultant came round he said you will be back in 4-6 weeks to have the stent and stone removed????

    I am now bleeding heavy, with constant back and tummy pain, feelings of nausea, large and bloated belly and the constant urge to pee. When i get there i get a dribble and that is it.

    I am supposed to have started a new job today and couldn’t go. However i need to be there friday. I really do not know what to do. Can i request they remove the stent and the stone sooner?

  6. Kayla Jean says:

    Ive been dealing with stones for several years now, but my experience now has been nothing but ridiculous! 6 weeks ago we found out I had 3 large stones in my left kidney, 18mm 16mm and 14mm…my urologist decides to immediately place a stent in! The next week after no progress, he decides to do Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy….still no success, so we continue do this procedure every week for the next 2 weeks with little success, now we only have one stone left! Finally, last week my urologist decides to do a Ureteroscopy with laser…places the stent back in! We found out today that the stones were broken up!! But I still have this stent in, and according to my doctor, who is now leaving town, it will remain in until he returns! I have to take you back for a sec and describe the amount of pain I have been in the last 6 weeks! This stent has caused every single horrible side affect you can imagine!! blood in urine, bladder spasms every time I pee, the feeling of having to pee all the time, extreme soreness, infection…the list goes on! ive been out of work this whole time due to not only having surgery every week, but having this stent in as well! So now that we got the results back today that the last procedure broke down the stone, imagine my anticipation to get this stent out! come to find out my doctor is going out of town for a while! Im meeting with him in the morning, and I cant help but think hes not done with me yet! Im not sure what to do or what questions to ask! Im ready to get back to my life! My body cant handle another surgery!!! Can I force him to take the stent out? would I be making the right decision? I just don’t know everything I need to know about my situation!!! Help!!!!

    • michelle says:

      I plan to ask my consultant to remove stent as soon as I’m home from my holiday, it’s day 5 today with the stent in and I can honestly say the side affects of the stent are equal to the pain of the stones, do what you feel is best for you! If you want the stent removed then tell them!

    • Janeea says:

      I had 27 operations on removing kidney stones but they keep coming back. I tried stents they didn’t work decided to put tubes in my back to drain my kidney that didn’t work. Now my left kidney does not work. Now i am in pain again and i still have a stent in.

  7. michelle says:

    I’ve just been let out of hospital after a week, of pure agony! I currently have 6 stones all 5-6mm I got given medication and told to wait for lithotripsy appointment, however that evening my right kidney stopped functioning and they had to put a drain in! I had the drain removed yesterday and a stent put in, I have to say the stent insertion was easy compared to the drain which I honestly thought I wouldn’t survive at the time it was inserted,

    The stent has been in 24 hours now and I’ve had the odd back cramp, I’ve had no more of the period like cramps and no bleeding but the stinging/burning when I pee ( which is like every 10 minutes ) is agony!! Who would think something so small could cause such an intense pain!

  8. greg says:

    i am glad i found this web site. thank you for sharing. i thought i was the only one who was having trouble with this stent but it seems that stent pain comes with the territory.
    mine is very uncomfortable. cant wait to be done with it..

  9. Christine says:

    I am glad to see there are people who do have extreme pain when the stent is inserted. I just had a 5mm stone stuck near my bladder for only a few weeks. After the initial stone attack the pain was minimal but I had a frequent urge to urinate. And yesterday I had the surgery and the stone removed. The pain now after the stent has been inserted is terrible. I had a hysterectomy 10 years ago, but it is just like terrible menstrual pain, but worse, combined with no appetite, severe back pain, lots of blood in urine, pain when urinating, And the Percocet doesn’t help at all. The doctor told me the stent would cause slight discomfort. At least it seems as if what I am experiencing is not uncommon. I was about to go to the ER tonight because I thought something went wrong. Why couldn’t my doctor have at least told me what I might expect. Thanks guys :)

    • Subramanian K says:

      Hi Christine,

      I hope doctor will give anesthisia before ur surgery. You wont feel anything when stent inserted. I do have stent on my left kidney. No need to worry everything will be alright.

    • alex says:

      If u have pain go to the ER don’t wait

  10. amy says:

    You poor woman over 120 stones! I’m almost 26 and am on my third. They are always small only 2mm this one is 3mm. But it’s so ridiculously painful along with the nausea and vomiting as u would well know. I had a stent placed on in my left side on the 3rd. Now am looking for a nephrologist to go up there and look at why I’m having so much trouble passing such small stones as well as why I have so much calcification in my kidneys at such a young age when I’m a heath nut and train 5 times a wk and drink plenty of water.. guess some of us are just unlucky :(

    • jo says:

      check with him about your diet to see what foods might be causing so many stones. Have the stones analyzed too.

    • Diana says:

      There could be a few different reasons why you have had so many stones at such a young age. Maybe you are taking in too much protein or maybe you have a condition similar to mine. I was diagnosed with medullary sponge kidney, where the linings of my kidneys are not smooth but spongy so the urine sits there and calcifies. I pass stones often however sometimes they are too large and get stuck in the ureter. I just had my third stent put in yesterday and the main complaint I have is severe burning when I urinate with a little blood. I feel as though I have to go to the bathroom ALL THE TIME!! I am leaving for a Disney vacation tomorrow so we will see how this goes. Stone is still there and will be blasted when I get back. Good luck. Ask your doctor to check you for the medullary sponge kidney!

  11. Alison says:

    I’ve got stag horn stones it’s taken over my left kidney plus the kidney is smaller than the right and is only working 40% I’ve had key hole they removed 70% and went back after 4 weeks to have flexible uretero renoscopy, laser fragmentation of the other 30% which was unsuccessful only removing 4% a stent has been inserted and I’ve never felt so much pain is like I’m in labour lol even though it only lasts for 20mins the pain i find it worse the the kidney pain, I’m due back in 4 weeks for a ct scan to see what’s going on and what the next move will be but my quarm with the doctors are that my right kidney has been working 60% already for the left and the damage of the left kidney can not be heal why not just take the kidney out I’m a 50yr woman who has been suffering with this complaint for over 5yrs and has really had enough know any advice please!!!!!!!

  12. Cindy says:

    I have had kidney stones for years, since I was 19. I’m now 51. I’ve been on meds for the whole time. I manufacture them & there is a family history that goes back 4 generations.
    I started this 2 1/2 years ago. I just had both kidneys done. Lithotripsy with stent placement on left & laser with a stent on right. This is my 4 stent.
    Each have had a different outcome from severe pain, moderate discomfort, to burning with bladder & kidney spasms.
    I have found over the counter AZO has helped me tons!
    I’m now on my second week & I’m careful on movement & lifting for pain & bleeding. I find the more I drink the less spasms I get. Close to 8-9 bottles of water a day. You have to keep urine running clear to avoid stent pain.
    I hope this helps anyone out there suffering.

    Meanwhile I wait until Wednesday to see what remains & my next session is.
    Good luck to all.

  13. michelle says:

    I have had over 120 kidney stones.. I was just in the hospital because of my kidney swelling up due to it not being able to drain … My doctor put a stent in and it is very painful.. I have to ho back and have the kidney stone and stent removed a could let of days after the surgery I was doing OK.. But now I am bleeding blood clots and hurting VERY bad….. I go to have them removed on the 8th I wished it was sooner!!!!!!!

  14. Jean says:

    It is now 3 weeks since having a stent planted. I had an acute kidney infection and then the stones were found, one very small one in my right kidney and some small ones in my left kidney. The last week and a half I have had bad back ache sometines travelling to the top of my left leg. Stent fitted to left kidney. Went the dr’s yesterday who said I had pulled a muscle in my back, (left side?) gave me pain killers and muscle relaxing medication, not sure this is the right answer!

    • Jean Ann says:

      I too have had these same symptoms. I just had my third set of stents put in but this time they used metal stents so they would last longer. I have been experiencing the same type of pain that you mentioned Jean. My urologist had a renal scan done and sure enough my right kidney is blocked and no longer functioning. Im no doctor, but I think a renal scan is what you need just to be sure. Because when mine started hurting it was just in my back and I thought I was having the usual backaches that I got then it spread to the front and down the top part of my leg like you mentioned. I hopefully will find out tomorrow what the urologist is going to do.

  15. Jean says:

    It is now 3 weeks since having a stent planted. I had an acute kidney infection and then the stones were found, one very small one in my right kidney and some small ones in my left kidney. The last week and a half I have had bad back ache sometines travelling to the top of my left leg. Stent fitted to left kidney. Went the dr’s yesterday who said I had pulled a muscle in my back, (left side?) gave me pain killers and muscle relaxing medication, not sure this is the right ansewer!

  16. Gloria Lemus says:

    I feel everyone’s pain. I just got a stent and I basically I have all the painful synthoms of having a stent. However, I am 8months + pregnant and this has to be the worse! My baby is super active and keeps kicking the stent making me want to go urinate every 5 minute. The worse part is that I’m not confterable taking any meds while pregnant so I have to be strong a deal with ALL the pain. This is only going to get worse as the baby gets bigger. My question is, can a kidney stone pass thru the stent???

    • krish says:

      Hello Gloria

      Every kidney stone guys feel u… sry for that.. god bless u… ill pray for u

    • amy says:

      And I thought I had it bad. :( I’m sorry to hear that your in so much pain and pregnant! The stone should pass through with the stent there it’s there apparently to open up the ureta and make it easier to pass through :) xx

    • Kathy Moore says:

      My urologist told me it’s highly unlikely to pass my 5mm while the stent is in. The stone’s don’t cause pain until they enter the ureter and he bypassed the stone to put the stent in. So the stone is not in the stent. If it dilates the ureter, I’m guessing it could secure the stone even more in place. My doctor is dilating the ureter to be able to go in and get the stone during a ureteroscopy in a few days.

    • Subramanian K says:

      Hi Gloria,

      It is all about the stone size that you need to mention whether it will pass thru or not. If it s less than 5 MM it wud pass thru easily. I have seen one of my friend passed 6 MM stones without any surgery. But in my case even i do have a stent on my left kidney now. But i pray for u to get cure soon since u r pregnant .

  17. Brandi Baca says:

    I have had a stent for about 7 months I know that’s too long but I live in a very small town and the doc only comes to town once a month and its very hard to get an appointment. well anyways I have been having a lot of problems with it im very scared for the past month I have been running a high grade fever its not all day most days but on some days it is but every day i run at least 102 also I’ve been having a some pain and my pee is starting to smell different has any body else been through the same thing and if so what did happened to you.

    • Mandie says:

      Brandi, PLEASE go to the doctor next time they come in to town. Even if you don’t have an appointment you need to be an advocate for yourself and take your health seriously. Go to the clinic and demand thst you be seen; wait there all day if it is necessary. High fevers like that (especially in conjunction with the pain and odor) are signs of infection and you will need immediate withdrawal of the stent and antibiotics. Do what you need to do in order to stay healthy. Good luck! <3

    • rmr says:

      You need to be seen by a physician right away. Go to nearest emergency room. Ambulance transportation may be needed if transportation is a problem.

  18. James Hyde says:

    For the record, I have had at least 10 Lithotrypsy (sp?) procedures and been “cut” 3 or 4 times prior to the introduction of Litho. I have had a “stent” inserted into the left ureter after each procedure and NEVER EVER had the discomfort I have now during (at the end of) “emptying of the bladder”! So, I am obliged to ask … “WTF”????? What has changed SO DRASTICALLY that what before was a fairly painless “after the fact process” into a really uncomfortable thing?? Why would the medical profession decide to screw up something that worked well and change it into something that is painful??? Makes NO sense to me at all!

  19. Joanne says:

    I had bi-lateral stents put it due to kidney stones,,they extracted the stones and placed in the stents on both sides. Now here is the problem The painful urination and the blood is suppose to be normal. But the bleeding has not stopped and it has been a month now, Sometimes it subsides but when I start cramping I know when I go pee I deposit a lot of blood,,Now they say it is a plastic tube they put up there but that confuses me,,When I used a metal egg vibrator to masturbate the egg went all wonky, there was no insertion just on the outside ( on Clit) and the vibrator kept on wanting to move to the sides of my vagina, When I placed it is the middle of where the stent is my vibrator started to wobble like it was attracted to the stents and want to lean to one side or the other side of the vagina,,I know we are all adults here and some of you may be giggling about this, but this happened,,The point is that I am allergic to metals and if that is the kind of material that they used could this be why I am having such issues with the stents?

    • Mandie says:

      Couple of things… the “metal” bullet you are using is made of plastic and coated with silver paint. If you are allergic to metals, why would you choose a vibrator that is made of a metallic material?? I sell sex toys and there are many many other options out there that would work for you that you won’t be allergic to. That said, good for you for feeling up to it. I found this article searching for stent pain as I had one placed Thursday and am counting the hours until they take it out next Thursday. I may not make it before demanding it be taken out early. I can’t imagine masturbating right now.

      I would assume that the weird push-back you were having on your clitoris may be from the strings left out to remove it? It’s something I think should be brought up with your doc, but I can’t imagine that there was any magnetic attraction between the supposedly plastic stents and the plastic bullet.

  20. JANE NYARIKI says:

    i have had a stent for a month now and the pain is crazy.i have finished my meds and hope when i go to the doctor it will be removed.what should i do to avoid a recurrence of a stone as this is crazy!

    • Tina Massolo says:

      Find out what minerals your kidney stones contain. Some stones are increased by drinking ice tea. Lemonade can help to discourage these stones. Be sure to increase your water consumption. Plain water is great. Dehydration promotes stone formation.

  21. Matthew says:

    Hey, I had some questions. Background: 2 years ago I had 2 PCNLs. The first one, my Dr couldnt get the stones out because they were all stuck in the top of my kidney. Sent me to a more experienced surgeon and pulled out 21 4-5mm stones (no BS) Well all was well after healing up and then a few weeks ago I started feeling kidney pain. Thought I might be forming new stones. Went to urologist. Had xray…saw nothing…had CT scan…saw that my rt kidney was distended and swollen much bigger than left. Sent me for IVP. Urologist looked at the disk and said I need to scope you asap. The dye wouldnt drain from my right kidney. Says theres a blockage or some sort but sees no stones at all. Says I prob have stricture of ureter and kidney isnt draining. He would know more after a ureteroscopy. He also said he’s going to more than likely put in a stent to help dilate my ureter to get my kidney to drain and function normally. Is it common to get a stent put in without having stones? I read lots of these posts and everyone had a stent put in for stones but not for any other reasons. I’m worried about the pain and discomfort of the stent placement. My Dr said something about putting in a stent, then removing it and putting in a larger one to facilitate dilation of my ureter. Anybody know anything about this? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Tina Massolo says:

      Yes, insertion a stent to passively dilate a stricture ureter, without the a stone there in order to drain the kidney is normal and routine. The doctor will remove the stent later, after the kidney drains and settles down and will have easier access to the kidney if further work needs to be done.

    • Juni says:

      Hello! I have had plastic stents since January,but had them replaced in April,and then just two days ago I had metal stents placed in my ureters and kidneys due to stricture of the ureters. My ureters are being crushed by endometriosis mixed with scar tissue and cancer. I am a stage 4 breast cancer patient who has had lots of chemo, which we believe started to lessen the productiveness of my kidneys. My creatinine went up to 6.5 and that is when they finally decided to have stents placed in them. They have said the stents were working well for my left kidney, but my right kidney has a dual collection system and the stent is not working very well. The doctors are hoping that the metal stents will be stronger than the plastic ones, but they are not sure yet. For the first 2 days after surgery I was doing well, now, after 3 days I am having lots of pain, like something pinching or poking me in my left kidney. I always feel like I have to urinate, but I am working on mindfulness meditation and distraction, as that seems to help. It is very difficult to sleep with the pain, and pain meds don’t seem to work for stent pain. I’m hoping I don’t have an infection, as this is my “good” kidney. Lots of rest and water will be on my schedule this next week. I find that if I listen to my body, I do much better. Sorry to write such a long answer to your question, but yes, you can have stents without a kidney stone. Usually it is due to the ureter not being able to function properly. Good luck with everything. I see that it has been a couple of weeks since you posted this. I am curious to know if you are feeling any better, or have found out the reason for your stents. Take good care of yourself!

  22. Hank the pharmacist says:

    I went in for an ureteroscopy to remove a 9mm kidney stone. Turns out it’s impacted and a stent was put in to open up my ureter, I will need another procedure to remove the stone later. After the stent was put in I had excruciating pain when I tried to pee and the bladder pain was hell as well. But I was given Ditropan XL (oxybutynin) for the bladder pain and I bought over-the-counter phenazopyridine (uristat or azo) for the burning/stinging urinating pain. The uristat took an hour to kick in and I take it every 8 hours, and the Ditropan XL took 8 hours to work and that’s taken one a day. Your doctor should have prescribed these meds, as well as Flomax to help dilate the ureter and Vicodin/Norco/Percocet for general pain. I find that the Vicodin just helps me sleep though.

  23. david says:

    I feel yalls pain I’m 34 and have had a 18 mm stone stuck in me for over a year I now have a stent in and want it out now I haven’t ever felt So much pain the bleeding has stopped and the pain became more of a slight ache till yesterday when I went pee felt like my insides were being torn to shreds guess the stent shifted well I got 4 weeks to go before surgery hope I make it Lol

    • amy says:

      Im 25 and only have 3mm (my third) and I’m in agony I don’t know how u are alive with an 18mm stone for over a yr! Wishing u all the best mate I don’t know how u do it. You have some crazy pain threshold there.

    • Nicole says:

      David i fell for you i’m in the same boat, my stone is 20mm now and i’ve been living with it for over a year now. The doctors FINALLY figured out what it was only this February. I’ve been in and out of emerge so many times i can’t even count, i had a stent put in last week and the pain is horrible!! I think i’ve figured out though as long as you try not to ‘push’ while your peeing you don’t get that excruciating pain in your back (but sometimes it comes anyways). I’m booked for surgery next month I CAN NOT WAIT!!! My advice to anyone with stones especially anything over 5mm cause you just can’t pass those ones, keep going to your doctor or to the emerge pressure those bastards to get you in and get something done!! I would say most of them if not all have never felt the pain we go through so they’re in no hurry to do something about it.

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