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.

 

1,337 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  3. brenda montoya says:

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

  4. 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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