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.

 

725 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Marilyn says:

    Just had 2 stones removed last Thurs. Stent will be in for 2 weeks. This is the third kidney stone removal I have had. Usually I don’t need the pain meds afterwards because I seem to have a high pain tolerance. Not this time! Sometimes I just shudder when I urinate. My brother said when he finally gets rid of his stones he’s going to a hypnotist to erase the memory of going through this. Hang in there everyone. There’s lots of us sharing your pain.

  2. Kaitlyn says:

    I’m 18, and had a ureteral stent put in after having a ureteroscopy to remove a 2mm kidney stone. I have three more in the same kidney that aren’t moving, and I had a ton of scar tissue from a bunch of other stones I didn’t know I had. Im getting really tired of constantly feeling incredible pain after every time I use the restroom. Does the pain from the stent ever stop? I get it out in five days and can hardly wait. Also, my urologist is taking it out in office and giving me Valium and lidocaine for the procedure. Does this mean it won’t hurt at all or will it just be uncomfortable?

  3. Tonia says:

    I can not believe how many of us are going through this. My stone dropped out of my kidney on Easter. Since then I have been in the ER three times and now have a stent. I can’t do anything. Walking makes everything worse. I am trying not to take anything for the pain, but the nights are horrible. I get the later Friday. Can’t wait for the stone to be gone.

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