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.


1,361 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Mere says:

    How long does the burning sensation while urinating last?

    Additionally, will I constantly be able to feel that the stent is there? Or will I get used to it?

  2. Hugo Maese says:

    Just had a stent put in this morning at 11 am August 12 2016. It’s 9:37pm central time and I have only mild discomfort at times. Sometimes I forget it’s there. Urinating was not so bad. It really burned the first few times because of blood but now that most blood is out burning is no longer an issue. Hope this helps!

  3. MamaAmy says:

    Thank you all so much or you advice, and words of wisdom on here. I have been going through quite a time and am very nervous about what is still yet to come. I am a 34 year old Mom of 3 girls.
    In May I went into the ER with a stomach bug. No big deal. An abdominal CT showed at that time, a mass on my left kidney.
    3cm mass which was renal cell carcinoma. A Partial Nephrectomy and 5 weeks later… my kidney is still leaking into my abdomen, which has required a Jackson-Pratt drain since surgery.
    I went for my weekly appointment today with no decrease in drain output in the last week.. about 200ml a day… So today I drove home with a foley catheter. So the FC in my bladder and a JP in my side.
    I didn’t think I had a stent but today the Dr, said I do…. I was sure he said he didn’t do one in the hospital… something to ask him about .. I didn’t think of it till after the appointment though.. I am confused though and I feel like I am always mishearing…

  4. Victoria says:

    Had a stent inserted in Thursday and since then I have had increased urgency to per, extreme burning when peeing and also when not peeing! Pain in my kidney and back L. Would anyone offer any advice

  5. valarye mister says:

    I’ve had thjs stent in for about 8 wks. for the last 3-4 wks. the pain urethra,back have been getting worse I’m having it removed on Monday. I hope I never ever have to go through this again. Glad to have read the different experiences with other people.

  6. Terri says:

    I had eswl and a stent put in about 5 years ago.stent removal was okay but I have had bad .bladder control since then if I don’t go when I feel it my bladder will drain and will not stop till it is empty.I don’t know if anybody else has had this problem but I am not going back to the doctor to get it fixed so I guess that I just will have to deal with it. just remember if you get a stent put in I guess this is a possible side effect for the rest of your life.

  7. Nate ellis says:

    I just had a stone removed from my right kidney size 6 on Tuesday August the 2nd. The pain from the stent when I move is not to bad like a slight tug inside buts hen I go urinate the pain is worse than when the stone was in there I almost have to double over on toilet tousle it. Calling doctors office tomorrow cause almost out of pain medication cause of pain. I can’t wait to pull this thing out

  8. pete wills says:

    I’ve had lithotripsy 7 times over 12years l was clear of stones then I started to get severe flank pain followed by 2 kidney infections larst October after ct scan doctor said I’ve got 13 more on 28 July I had laser stone fragmentation and basget removal with JJ stent after surgery I had to be catheterised I couldn’t pass water the stent pain is severe ime not looking forward to stent removal

    • Stef says:

      I have had over 40 surgeries to remove stones over the last 10 years. Most with stents left in. The pain is terrible for me but have recently tried suppositories pain killers diclofenic and they did help for a while.

  9. Lisa says:

    My first two surgeries for stones were through my back. The doctor had to make two surgeries because the stone was the size of a golf ball(his words) and it took twice to get to it and blast it. I cried every day for a week. The constipation was unbearable.

    The third surgery the doctor went through my urethra. He wasn’t able to get in through my left side because my tubes were too small. So I have had stents in my bladder for the last five days. Two weeks left until the next surgery. Pain is to a minimum. But, I get bladder spasms and back spasms when I try to go to the bathroom. And it hurts to the point that it takes my breath away. I always feel like I have to go to the bathroom. And I wake up 7 to 8 times a night to go to the bathroom. I still have two more surgeries to go through. And I will promise you I never want to experience this again.

  10. Vkelley says:

    Since may 15th till 15th of july..i have had 5 stents put in me…replaced a few times due to infection and hydronephrosis. I still have a stent in me and its just so painful. I get chills at night…sometimes i wake up all drenched at night and change my clothes. I cant walk much…the stent just rubs against my bladder every time i move. I am at a point now…that death sounds better than living another day with this pain. Have called drs office..all they suggest is painkillers.

    • Alex Dickerson says:

      I hope you’ve already found a relief considering the time frame. Ive had 5 stents since April due to hydronephrosis also. The only relief I find is when I take a oxycodone and pyridium or phenozopyridine. The burning has began to be too much, and the back pain is awful specially at night. I go for open surgery next week, so not long for me. But I hope this helps you if you still are in need.

  11. My friend recently had a couple of kidney stones that were very painful. You mentioned that ureteral stents are soft, hollow, plastic tubes placed temporarily into the ureter to allow drainage around a stone or to speed healing after a stone surgery. It seems that this could be something to help him heal. Do all urologist suggest this treatment?

  12. Don P says:

    I had surgery on July 6. The kidney stone (6 mm) was sitting right above the bladder in ureter but could not get into bladder for 2 months. I finally had the surgery to remove the stone. I told the doc if at all possible try not to use a stent. When I woke up in recovery the first thing I said to the nurse was do I have a stent! She said no stent. The doctor listened to me. However, that night I could feel the pressure on my left side that lasted for about 4 hours. It was pretty intense. Now I understand why they recommend a stent to allow healing. However, if I have to do this again I would try not get a stent but would want to get a morphine shot!

  13. Robert says:

    I have a stint put. In last Wednesday, I have had stones for years, the stint comes out next Mon., I hope it doesn’t hurt, why does so much blood comes out in my urine, its been 6 days, is that normal, I wish someone could answer that. For me, thanks.

  14. Peggy says:

    This is my second time with a stent. The other was 2 years ago, same kidney. This time I seem to have much more discomfort from it. Constant ache and heavy feeling on my left flank and the constant urge to utinate, unless I am lying down. Burning at the urinary meatus after voiding.

  15. Shelley says:

    I had two stones blasted, 16mm on one side and 10mm in other kidney. The stents were left in for a week. After removal I’ve been having terrible spasms and a hard time urinating. Any recommendations on how long I should wait? How long does this last, it’s been 6 days.

    • Paul Tripoli says:

      Dear Shelley I myself just had kidney stone surgery and after the stent was removed the next day there was no pain at all I believe there is something wrong I wish you luck

  16. Valerie R says:

    I’ve been through kidney stones, surgery, stent placement, and removal. I have a stent in now after surgery on July 19th to remove a 7mm stone. First surgery on July 8th was not a success. Urologist could not reach because my urether was too narrow and placed a stent to open them up. Removal is not painful and I get to remove my own this time since it has a string attached. I am always relieved to get the stent out.

  17. Bobbie S says:

    I had the cystoscopy surgery done on July 9th. I got admitted to the hospital over the weekend after going to the ER three times being in pain and not able to keep water down. I ended up severely dehydrated. They ended up doing the surgery as an emergency because my kidney started failing. I don’t remember much about my hospital stay because I slept most of the time. My biggest worry is how they are going to remove my stent. My heart does not react very well to anesthesia due to my bradycardia, but I do not want to be awake for the procedure because I will freak out. Anyone got any advice to give me about the procedure or how your appointment went in regards to getting the stent removed?

    • Simon says:

      I had one pulled out yesterday and even though I’d been worried about it. It really was not a big deal, by far the least traumatic thing to happen during a four day hospital stay. The Urologist pulled on the string and out it came. It took less than a couple of seconds and didn’t hurt too much.

      • John Stephens says:

        I pray mine comes out the same way. I’m having my stent removed in the morning and I really get sick thinking about it. My wife laughs and says be a big boy. Yea right. I’m glad I found someone who says it wasn’t that big of a deal.

    • Robert Hughes says:

      Hi, I did not have a general anaesthetic for placement of my stent due to toxin concerns for my liver. Instead I received an epidural numbing me below chest level. A little strange as you can feel movement and hear discussions, but I would elect for this every time.
      Removal will be with local anaesthetic, I am told much less of an ordeal. The big question is how do you feel about being conscious during the procedure? The thought freaked me out a little but the experience was just fine.
      I hate that groggy “welcome back to the world” waking experience from a general.

    • Susan says:

      It was so easy! No pain at all. 3 seconds!!!! Do not stress!!! I worried for nothing. You will be so happy.

      • Anna Fitzpatrick says:

        Thank you for this reassurance. I’m due to have the stent removed any day so this meant a lot reading this.x

    • Susan M says:

      It was so easy. 3 seconds. No pain. I worried for nothing!!!!

    • Katie says:

      I have a ureteral stent in place now and it will stay there for three weeks. I had a huge stone lodged in the ureter and I had to be removed with a cystoscope and a stent placed because of all the swelling in the ureter. My doctor said that the stent is removed in the office. No anesthesia is required. It sounds like a non event. Probably no worse than have the doctor look around your bladder with a cystoscope. I am not concerned.

      Hope all goes well.

      • Chris says:

        Not a big deal deal for women. Guys is a different story. I’ve had 5 stents and removed 2 myself. It’s definitely not painless, but just giving yourself the pep talk and gaining the courage to just do it is the worst part!

  18. brenda montoya says:

    My friend has them it’s been a year she can’t control her bladder and green mucus discharge

  19. Beth N. says:

    I went to the ER on June 19 for horrible intractable pain on my left side. After waiting hours to be examined, I was diagnosed with pyelomyelitis (kidney infection) caused by stones in both kidneys.

    I met with a urologist a few days later who said that I have a small (5mm) stone in my left kidney, on which he is going to perform lithotripsy. In my right kidney, I have a 13mm stone which the urologist says is “too large for lithotripsy” so he’s going to put a stent in on the right while he has me under for the lithotripsy on the left.

    So my question is, what is the stent going to do? I realize the purpose of the stent is to help the kidney drain and to keep the ureter from swelling. But what about the stone? Is it expected to pass down the stent into my bladder (in which case, that big of a stone CANNOT come down my urethra!!)? Is he going to break it up with a laser beforehand? He hasn’t told me what the plan is beyond placing the stent, and I’m embarrassed that I didn’t ask. Any ideas?

    • Bev M says:

      I forgot to ask my surgeon some key questions too and ended up in a difficult situation with a stent that needed to be in for 4 days, staying in for 6 weeks!! ( it was a booking issue, but I should have spoken up) It’s not to late to ask, screw embarrassment, write down everything you want to know and call the office. The doctor can return your call. I learned a lot about being more proactive in my care since dealing with this stone, lithotrypsy, csytoscopy, the laser and wire basket method, etc. So please, don’t be embarrassed. I wished I made my surgeon slow down for two seconds and tell me exactly what was going on. The most important thing I learned was that if I’m having a procedure that requires a stent and is not an emergency, that I insist on having both placement and removal appointments booked before going ahead. Live and learn. All the best to you.

    • Robert Hughes says:

      The stent encourages better flow and reduces the risk of further infection from the larger stones which often have bacterial deposits on them, the longer the stone has been there the worse this could be.
      The next step I would anticipate the insertion of a scope and the breaking up of the stone using a laser. Larger fragments can be grabbed and removed via the scope. Smaller “grains” can pass naturally afterwards

    • Debra Ramsey says:

      The month of June I would need to use the bathroom quite often. When I walked in bathroom and started to pull pants down I would start urinating. This would happen all the time. I also had some side and back pain that would hurt for a little while and then it would quit.I have a very,very high tolerance for pain. I rarely use pain killers. On the 27th of a June I woke up about 1:00 am with sever pain. Could not get comfortable and was up the rest of night. Husband wanted to take me to dr. but I put him off and said I could deal with it. This went on for 2 days. I just figured What ever it was it would pass. There was no bleeding or burning when urinating. I also was nauseous and started vomiting and pain was coming around in upper part of stomach. I just figured the soreness was from vomiting and Dry heaving. On the 2nd of July the pain came on again strong and after 10 hrs. of dealing with constant pain my husband called and I told him about how bad the pain was. Knowing my tolerance for pain he knew it was bad. About an hour later I heard someone coming threw the back do. He had came home from work and Made me go to hospital. They gave me a cat scan and came back and said I had a stone that was 8mm. Since we lived out of town they decide to keep me so they could control my pain and my husband knew I probably not take my pain meds. My doctor came in on the 4th of July and put a stent in. Was suppose to come out in a week but since Dr. Was knew to our area he only could schedule surgery when ever time was available. On the 19th of July 2016 they scheduled my surgery. Went in with laser then when in with a tool that had a claw on end to get stones out. He also placed a temporary stent in and told me to remove it 3 days later. First few times using bathroom was uncomfortable and to tell you the truth it felt like a tampon inside. Yes it was a little uncomfortable but really not that painfull.I was a little scare to take the stent out so I waited until my husband came home just in case I couldn’t get it out. I just got done pulling it out and did not endure any pain. It does feel a little different but really no pain. Yes kidney stones can be painfull but I did use heat and ice to help with the pain. Everyone is different so please don’t think the worse.

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