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.

 

1,672 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Amber Turner says:

    Hello. I had my second cystoscopy with right ureteral stent placement in a 2 week span this morning. Since all the meds have warn off I’m having a lot of issues with what feels like urethra spasms and of course low pelvic and right flank pain, but my biggest concern is im having pretty intense bilateral leg pain. Has anyone else experienced this? This whole reason why this is my second one so soon is because I had the first stent placed due to not being able to pass a stone. My doctor at that time only placed stent and did not remove stone, 5 days later another urologist (after I had been admitted to hospital for pain management and infection) removed the stent and a large, pointy stone. Continued to have severe pain so my urologist insisted on a much smaller stent placed today. I do have a small stone embedded in my right kidney, but he did not feel comfortable trying to remove it. So after all that, my biggest question is, is this intense bilateral leg pain normal? I wanted to ask if anyone else has experienced it before I call my doctors office.
    Any answers will be great! It’s been a rough 2 weeks with a stent placement, hospital admission, stent and stone removal and now another stent placement.

  2. G Wiggins says:

    I just had a stent removed today after having it in place for a week as part of a surgery to remove a small cancer tumor that was growing very near my ureter. Wanted to report on my experience. When it was put in place I felt a discomfort on the side it was installed in but no sharp pain. More like a dull ache. When urinating it ached more but no sharp pain. After a week in place the ache became more noticeable, especially when I was sitting for long periods. The biggest discomfort was around urination. I often felt a strong urgent need to urinate and when I did there was often a burning sensation. There was also some minor bleeding. I thought I had a UTI as the head of my penis felt very sensitive and burned while urinating. I noticed that I had a very strong urge to go frequently when I was standing. If lying down or sitting the urge to go frequently abated, especially if I was on a painkiller which I took very infrequently besides Tylenol. Doc said the irritation and what felt like a possible UTI was actually sensitivity caused by the stent.

    After having the stent removed, had some sharper pain and more bleeding while urinating and was quite uncomfortable for a few hours. Again, lying down helped a lot. Did notice that the urgency and sensitivity in the head of my penis decreased considerably.

    Bottom line – having a stent put in by a capable surgeon does not mean you will be in agony. There will be discomfort, increased urgency etc. but it can be very manageable with a basic painkiller like Vicodin if needed. I did try to exercise one day while it was in (playing tennis) and it was uncomfortable and led afterwards to significant fatigue. Hope this helps.

  3. Linda says:

    I have an 8 mm stone inside kidney… they put a stent in while I was under at hospital, now two weeks later I have to go back under to blast the stone and they remove the pieces. I hope this stent will not be left in. Damn. It hurts so bad, have had kidney pain for 5 days when I pee, now day 12 feel better but stent uncomfortable and pinching. Stones are horrible experience. Lots of luck to everyone, I am not eating anything that contributes to making stones. I never want to go through this again.

  4. Arun says:

    I have a stone in my right upper utera. On consulting 2 Sr. Urologists, one responded of doing RIRS and the other senior urologist advised not to go for RIRS as it may have life threatening consequences, and advised to have stent placed first for 2 weeks and later remove the strent and stone together.

    Now me not being from a medical line am lookong fo some help and guidance around the same.
    symptoms:
    frequent lower back and abdomen pain
    continuous fever
    very rare nausea
    very mild irritation while urinating (no blood or any discomfirt)

  5. Bruce says:

    Had Stent put in today, great relief!

    After passing two stones in three years, I thought passing one broken up by a stone blaster would be no worse! Was I wrong. During my routine followup Dr advised I had passed a 5mm stone, but my left kidney had a 15 mm stone. We decided to magnetically blast it. The first night was ok, but the following three days of no sleep, unable to find a comfortable position…and even morphine was not making much difference. THAT’S when we decided to try the stent. The pain subsided! …and the issues with the stent can be disconcerting, but I would rather not need morphine!

  6. Nancy Centers says:

    Wow, my special needs brother had a stent inserted on April 14th, he has a nickel size kidney stone, hopefully they will blast that stone soon. He is unable
    To express his pain level.

  7. Natashia says:

    About 5 weeks ago I woke up with killer pain in my lower back as I also was 35 weeks pregnant with my 3rd child. I’ve had a kidney stone before but I wasn’t to sure if it was a stone or labour so I went to the hospital, turns out I passed three stones in one day, they kept me for 2 days. Then for about 5 days I was in and out of the hospital with more pains they didn’t see any stones in a ultrasound but kept giving me morphine for the pain. They sent me to a kidney specialist, he went up my uritra with a little camera and found a stone stuck in my kidney causing me all that pain. The doctor put a stent in me while 35 weeks pregnant. I felt everything the pain from the stones were so bad I couldn’t wait for the stent to help with the pain. Turns out the stent caused me more pain in so many different ways I couldn’t sleep I shouldn’t sit I couldn’t pee I couldn’t walk I couldn’t do anything. I ended up getting induced at 37.3 days pregnant. Ever since I gave birth I’ve felt amazing didn’t feel the stent I could sleep pee walk everything so I’m guessing the baby was just so much pressure and so forth. A week after I gave birth to my son they gave me a CT scan where they seen two stones. One 3mm and one 2mm and a few little pieces around it. A week after that, (today) I had my kidney stone surgery as they went to blast my stones. Turns out this last week I passed them both as I felt some pain witch I thought was weird since I’ve had the stent in I haven’t felt anything but I didn’t know if having he baby and everything going back into place for the stent shifted and that’s why I felt some pain. So while I was in surgery they didn’t notice any stones but took out my stent. It’s been a total of 5 weeks since I’ve passed my first 3 stones and dealing with pain the stent and now surgery. I am just glad it’s over and done with and I pray to GOD I never get another stone. I would rather give birth 500 times then pass another stone.
    I hope this post maybe will help another pregnant mommy.

  8. Jim says:

    I’ve had three bouts with stones since about 1995. In 2004 and 2012, I had shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) which seemed to work fairly well. Stones have now returned yet again. Does anyone know if there is a limit to how many SWLs you can have? Has anyone had 3 or 4 or even more? Can SWL damage your kidneys if you get that treatment more than “X” times? My Dr. want to do a ureterscopic removal, but from what I’ve read on this site, these can lead to problems and pain, so I’d rather try another SWL. Thank you.

  9. Kiara says:

    I rush to A&E on Tue 7h March with kidney stones, the stone got stuck between kidney and bladder causing a bad infection. The following day the doctors inserted a stent and gave ma antibiotics to cure the infection, after 8 weeks I have the appointment to remove stone and stent assuming the infection is gone. I was a vegetable for nearly 3 weeks, it was the most horrible time of my life. Now after 6 weeks and 4 cycles of antibiotics the infection is better but not gone and the only pain I have is in my clitoris, my GP thinks this could be due to the stent. I constantly pee and I’m always thirsty and swety overnight. I still cannot go out of my house, do any chores or go to the office. I really hope all will be gone after the operation. I know blood in the urine is normal, I had it too, and it helps to get reed of the infection, unless is really heavy in which case I suggest go back to the hospital. JARE, I really feel for you and I am terrifyed to the idea of going thru this again. There must be a better way to deal with this and to prevent it. I don’t wish it to anyone, it is a real torture. If anyone knows about pain in clitoris please let know, I’m really worried about it.

  10. jare jacobsen says:

    I’ve produced around 20 plus stones. Had one removed from my bladder that became embedded in the side of it. The need to pee was so overwhelming that I was on a schedule. Drugs provided very minimal to no relief. I have this old vibrating heating pad that provided a little relief. It was the only thing that kept me from just eating a bullet. The surgery went well and I was pain free right after the first time peeing. 5 years later I’ve had a stone suck at the top of my right uriter just below th e kidney. Doctors plan was to laser it, break it up and pull the pieces out. He poked thru the uriter and had to stop. He left me with a stent and a week to heal before going back in and trying again. 2nd surgery hours without a hitch. Broke up the stone got another stent placed sent home to recover. Going back in a week to get the stent removed. So out of 20 plus stones, 3 surgeries and 2 stents, i would rather pass every stone endure all 3 surgeries and sign up for the sledge hammer to the groin competition just to forgo the stent. It has brought me to a whole new level of pain discomfort and discust that wouldmakethe devil himself cringe. I haven’t been awake for a stent removal yet and i don’t think I have dred anything so bad in my life. I would like to say I’ll post the results in a week to let you know how it went but I probably won’t. I will want to put it passed me as fast as possible. Stents have no place in a body. Unless you want to hurt them beyond reason.

    • Amanda says:

      The stents are placed into heal the urter and kidney. I myself have had multiple stents and I had my stent removed today and was awake for the first time and I was very very nervous because my pain tolerance is so low and lets face it I’m just a baby, but it was not bad AT ALL my doctor took it out in literally 30 seconds. There was a little discomfort but not painful at all and did not even feel it in my kidney or urter as he took it out.

    • Linda says:

      You poor thing. I feel your pain right along with you. It’s horrible. Prays out to you

  11. Lovey Lee says:

    4 days post uteral stents. Peeing blood. But I noticed the more I drink the more it clears up. When I awake each morning, it is red again. When and why would it still bleed? Do I have to worry about red blood count? I have bilateral stents that extent exterior and are capped outside of my back.

  12. Normande says:

    Hi had an operation yesterday to remove a stone from my kidney and now have a stent on for he said 5 days. I have lost the power of control with my bladder, I have had to go and buy some heavy duty nighttime poise because I have no control , I have some pain and lots of blood in my urine , everywhere I look for answers on the stent there is never mention of this problem . I will call the urologist as soon as his office opens on Tuesday , i am worried because I was not informed of this problem

    • Linda says:

      Omg did the doctor knick your urea that tube? Find out. That should not be.

    • Glennda says:

      I too every 10 to 15 minutes started peeing with no control and painful. I had my boyfriend go get me some diapers after 6 pair of underwear in 1 hour. Can you say you embarrassing?! Severe pain everytime “it” pees. “It” not me because I have, no control of when or how much is coming out. Phoned the Dr to ask why, he didn’t tell me. He did not respond, but go have a x Ray in AM then maybe the following day it can be removed. This is such a painful thing to go through, One more thing. I can not poop because of “it”

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