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.

 

1,631 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Gary says:

    Contrary to the person who said that they wouldn’t wish a stent on their worst enemy, I WOULD! It’s exactly what I wish on them. The pain I experienced from the stent would cut anyone down to size. I guess some people are luckier than others. Apparently, many women say they forget the pain of childbirth. Well I never forgot the pain from the damn stent. I have a lot of ailments and have been poked, prodded, pinched, stuck, stabbed, cut etc etc. I wish my worst enemies to have to wear a sent until their knees buckle, then collapse and have to have knee replacements. LOL!

  2. Gary says:

    I have had several kidney stones. The pain I experienced from the stones was sharp stabbing spasms wither in my back below my rib cage or in my abdomen just under the rib cage.With the first stone I had a lithotripsy. The procedure went smoothly and the only problem I had was some pain when the crushed stones emptied into my bladder. With the second stone, I was told I could not have the lithotripsy and after the surgery the doctor indicated that my ureter was too narrow for them to get the instrument through to get the stone. Consequently, he inserted a stent. I have a relatively high tolerance for pain. However, I must say that the pain associated with the stent was extreme. The worst pain would ensue just prior to emptying my bladder during urination. The pain would actually bring tears to my eyes. After about 2 weeks I went back for the surgery and the stone was removed. The doctor told me they had to leave the stent in to make sure the ureter did not collapse. By the time I went to have the stent removed a week later, I could hardly walk . The pain was excruciating. I now realize that I have developed another kidney stone. I pray that there will be no stent involved or if there is, they in the couple of years since the last procedure, they have developed a more humane way to treat the issue. I have read many comments from people who have had the stents and most of the comments I have read indicate that the procedure incurs much more pain then the clinical descriptions impart.

  3. Amy says:

    I have a dialated kidney and dialated distal ureter. Had stent put in to “see what happens”. I was blessed with a hospital acquired fungal infection and dr refused to remove stent. After many calls to him begging for it it be removed I gave up and went to a different urologist. He could not come up with any good reason to have a stent put in so he decided to redo the procedure and take a look at the inside of my kidney. He found it to still be enlarged after 5 weeks, no stones but white spots on my kidney. He put a new stent in because of the infection he feared my ureter would collapse. That was last Thursday. I instantly felt better. I had a fever, chills, groin pain, peeing pain, etc. On Saturday evening after a few drinks at a fundraiser I went to the bathroom, while on the toilet I blew my nose, took care of things, stood up and thought wow that’s a lot of pee running down my legs? So I sit back down wad up some toilet paper and make a mad dash to my husband. We rushed home, got changed and took off to the ED all the while I can not stop peeing! 6 pads in the course of 20 minutes and 2 sets of cloths! At the ER I run to the bathroom and notice that my stent is hanging there half still inside of me. Well they were kind and understanding even tho I have lost all dignity. How this thing came out is a mystery almost unheard of from what the dr has said! Anyone have that happen? Also my stent had no string!

    • Joely says:

      Yes, years ago I had stones and it moved, felt like it was hanging out, nobody believed me. Finally went to the urologist and agreed that it was don’t where he put it. Today I had another one put in for a large stone and infection. It’s burning just laying here and every time I go to hetbathroom.

  4. Ann Tansey says:

    My mom has a URETERAL Stent about 5 weeks now. She is 85 and she was sent home on Hospice because of it! She nearly bled to death and they did everything to keep her alive. She developed Dysphagia from the surgery I guess but I knew she would be ok when she got home!! Fortunately she is doing extremely well and looks like she will be coming off Hospice 🙏 My dilemma is the surgeon says the stint needs to be replaced!!! My mom does not know of this yet and I dread telling her and I know she will refuse to go through this against!!!! Please make Ella me how long we can leave the stint in AND what are the reprucussions of leaving it in? PLEASE REPLY ❤

  5. Now i have no more back pain i had to have a stent in for9 days it was not fun. I am happy it is over and i hope i never have to go through it again. I probably wouldn’t never go through it again. I bet Everly the right kidney will have to come if a other kidney stone forms on it. That mean surgery again.

  6. Tim V. says:

    I am a 42 yr old male who had uteroscopy on Sat March 4th, with a stent put in place (with no string). I had a 8.4 mm stone and 4.8mm stone in my left kidney – right kidney was unremarkable. Here’s my experience so far.

    My frequency of urinating is about every 2-3 hrs…i can go longer at night as i stop drinking water around 8-9pm. Once the urge to urinate begins, i need to go RIGHT AWAY as I experience pain and discomfort (I would rate it a 7 out of 10). Once my bladder is empty, the pain and discomfort subside until next time.

    Re: blood in urine – the first 36 hrs is was pretty excessive, to the point where I had to wear a protective pad in my underwear because blood continued to spot after urinating. After 36 hrs that stopped and now there is only blood in my urine. It resembles a pink rose wine.

    I was prescribed Tylenol#3 for pain (which I cannot take as the codeine makes me excessively bloated and nauseous) and Cipro for 10 days to avoid a UTI. In lieu of the T#3, I have been taking extra-strength Advil, but it doesn’t help much.

    I also experienced constipation and used a laxative with stool softener- found it helped- not much of an issue now.

    I took a week off work and return on Monday March 13th. Although I have an office job, it will be interesting to see how this goes, as I will have to drop what I’m doing once the urge to urinate strikes. I have a follow-up appointment on March 23rd with my urologist. I am hopeful he will schedule the stent removal. I want to return to normal urinating!

  7. Andy says:

    I had a 10mm stone in my right kidney removed with laser lithotripsy on 02/28/17. This is about my 6th stone over the past few years. I was sent home with a stent and catheter that was left in place for 6 days. Once they removed them both I had the worst pain of all. It has been 2 days since the stent was removed and I continue to have bad spasms and flank pain. I am beginning to worry and pray that I don’t have a blockage or other damage. Every time I go pee the spasms kick in for several minutes and the kidney pain kicks in. I guess I will go for another Ct scan or ultrasound to see what’s going on. If anyone has any thoughts about this please let me know. I am hoping my it goes away and I don’t need any other procedures.

  8. Pauline says:

    hi all my names Pauline I’m Spina Bifida since birth so already have naff kidneys and no bladder so have a urostomy for my waterworks I actually grow stones n they are periodically removed via Lithotripsy but because you cannot physically sew a stent in to a kidney the stent keeps falling out the last time it started coming out again n I was ill for a fewdays as I thought with a virus but in actual fact I had SCEPTICEMIA because the water infection went un noticed and just kept getting worse I finally got a hospital apt n they kept me in removed the stent n gave me 2 blood transfusions I got over that just to come home and its happened all over again I’m STILL waiting on another surgery
    morphine doesn’t help with the pain I spend most of my days not even getting dressed as I don’t go out anymore except when I’m at the hospital its physically draining me but I’m far from fed up or depressed that’s for sure
    I SAW SOMEONE MENTION URAL SACHETS WHAT ARE THEY N WHAT DO THEY DO PLEASE

    • William says:

      Pauline, I had severe pain a couple of weeks ago and had to go to the ER for it and then had to stay overnight to get a stent put in the next day. They kept pumping me with morphine and it never reduced the pain. I had to deal with the pain all night until another Dr. came in the next morning and suggested Toradol(anti-inflammatory). It helped a lot for the pain. Hope this helps! GOOD LUCK with everything!

      • Joely says:

        Toradol is amazing. Went to the ER yesterdat cuz my right kidney stone is stuck. I was amazed how fast the pain went away once given the medicine, where as hours earlier I just wanted to die.

  9. Cathy Paneral says:

    I’ve had stones for 10 years now. 5 litho’s,3 stents,and over 30 stones. I will take the stones over stents any day of the week. If you can avoid them please do. I have passed 5mm stones and would still take stones, the problem is the infection. I have a high pain tolerance and stents bring me to my knees in tears. They say you can return to normal activity but, good luck. Nothing is normal you can feel great one moment and the next feel like you are dying.

  10. Rupi says:

    Hi everyone,
    I’m glad I found this site. I’m on my fourth stone in 12 years. The last two, yesterday and June 2015 have been the worst and have both resulted in stent placement.

    Im a bit confused. Based on what my doc said, my 3mm stone was stuck near the top of the ureter, and after trying to go after it in the OR, they said they couldn’t get it so inserted a stent. But from what I’m seeing, one side of the stent is directly in the kidney so how could they not have reached the stone? So confused.

    The stent has me uncomfortable to say the least. Nurses told me I could resume normal activity within 48 hours. I’m almost 24 in, and yeah, I don’t think 48 is going to happen.

    Peeing sucks. It helps to drink a lot of water, and to jam my hands into my bladder area for support when I actually urinate. The pain has been getting worse today than better. I didnt have back/kidney pain before, but do now. Not sure if it’s the stent or the stone. Bleeding seems to have increased as well. Ahhh. Any advice?

  11. Dave Abbott says:

    I feel very lucky and sympathize with all those experiencing such pain. I had a kidney stone removed on March 1 and a stent put in to prevent swelling and closing of the ureter. I experienced moderate discomfort that night after the procedure and mild burning during urination. It’s now March 2 and there is no discomfort, no burning and, no blood. I don’t even know it’s there except for more frequent urination as i drink a lot of water as per the Docs orders. I’m on Cipro for 7 days to prevent infection.The stent comes out on Mar 6. I guess I’m pretty lucky.

  12. Debbie says:

    I have had kidney stones- both sides, off and on for 38 years. 2 surgeries December 2015, 2 days apart. Partial nephrectomy Feb 2016 and surgery to repair crimped ureter on left side, swollen kidney on right side and stone removal. OMG- the stents are HORRIBLE! Was in the ER 2 hours after I got home from surgery because I could not urinate, was sent home with a catheter, nurse on phone walked me through foley removal 3 days later. 10 days later, (yesterday) back in ER- you guessed it, bladder full, could not urinate…sent home again with a foley. I have 2 stents, plus a nephrostomy. The more I move around, the worse I feel. Pain and nausea are horrible as it creates waves of renal colic…can’t get comfortable until the Norco kicks in- hate that stuff because it causes the WORST constipation known to mankind. Stents/nephrostomy tube come out tomorrow, if history repeats itself, you can easily find me writhing in pain the remainder of the day after removal. Tips I would like to share; (No- I am not in the medical field, I just know kidney stones suck and I’ll try any suggestion for relief) 1. Don’t waste your time on the Mickey Mouse laxatives the Dr gives you due to being plugged up from narcotic pain pills- Use Dulcolax pills or suppositories. 2. Try to discontinue Norco asap- switch to ibuprofen when you can. The longer you are on Norco, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, etc- the longer you will wrestle with really bad constipation. 3. I have tried many remedies for stones..Stone Free, Chanca Piedra, Olive oil and Lemon juice- NONE of which helped to break down my stones…BUT…drum roll please….Barlean’s Olive Leaf Complex helped my Calcium Oxalate stones and my proof was when after surgery, my Dr informed my husband that she saw a lot of sediment or small stone particles. The Olive Leaf Extract tastes bad, but take 1 TBLS with a little OJ, tea, etc- twice daily. O.L.E. not only helps toward dissolving stones, it is great for the immune system as it has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. It strangely helps lessen your desire for sweets. 4. Trick to start urine flow; put 1 or 2 drops of peppermint oil into your toilet- the vapors will relax your urethra and help to kick start your urine flow. 5. Use a heating pad to help ease kidney tension/pain.

    So sorry for everyone that suffers from stones or stent discomfort, it is very painful and debilitating. Best wishes to all for a speedy recovery!

    • Tina Wilkes says:

      Just so you know magnesium will take care of your constipation, I’ve been on heavy pain meds for 20 years and as long as I take magnesium everyday I have no problem. Start with 800mg a day and go up or down from there, before I found magnesium I thought my bowels were gonna come out of me from constipation.

  13. Chetan Abhyankar says:

    Male: 39 Years
    Condition: One stone Right side 4 mm got stuck & had to do Uterescopy Lithothripsy, Got one Stent right side.
    So thanks for all the inforamtion People this blog was really helpful to prepare me to deal with what was coming my way. I went into surgery or procedure on friday. The procedure itself was amazing. First time i went under GA. I have to say the set up & Doc did an outstanding job. I had no side effects after the procedure due to the GA. The stent issure which i will elaborate further is a different beast. But good news was as per the doc they got both the stones & both my sides are clear.

    Now about the Stent. Yeah my experience was similar to what most of you have stated. The first 24 hours peeing was to put it mildy excruciating. Though i think i have a pretty high threshold of pain i was gasping the first couple of times. Yes hydrate that really helps in reducing the pain. Today is day 2 1/2 & i have almost no pain while i pee. They gave me Oxycodone for the pain and antibiotics in addition to Pyridium to make the pee look orangish yellow. Though the side effect of that is severe constipation in my case which i find really distressing. Thankfully the stent is supposed to come out in 2 days more so i am looking forward to peeing like a human again. So though the pain while peeing has reduced i have general backache all over my lower back which is not what i was expecting. A hot water bottle is the only thing that helps right now. To all those about to go through this best of luck & i pray you all have a stone free existence cos i would not wish this on my worst enemy.

  14. Heather Johnson says:

    Today marks 3 weeks since I have had a stent in each kidney. The first week was a breeze. No pain. I was amazed. It did feel uncomfortable when I would urinate, towards the end especially. But by week 2 I was feeling more pronounced and noticeable pain in my bladder area. Some days it felt like a metal hanger in my bladder that was moving around when I would try to walk. I had to wobble and walk very slowly. The nurse and everyone told me I could resume normal activity with the stents and even have sex. However the 1 time I tried, it was so painful we had to stop several times and then I noticed blood in my urine. It took me 2 more weeks before I got the nerve to try again and even then I had to be on percocet 10 and motrin before I would do it. It still was painful. I’m on week 3 and it has been better. Thankfully it’s not been anything like what most people are describing. I’ve heard of people tell me it’s been the worst pain of their lives and even worse than passing stones. No where close for me. The best description I can say is a bad or constant UTI/bladder infection feeling. I haven’t felt any pain in my kidneys either. It’s all in my bladder area. I am concerned though because the wound where my nephrostomy tube was located is still leaking occasionally. If I cough it leaks. If I move a certain way it will leak. I have had to wear gauze and tape over it. The urology office told me not to sleep on that side until it heals. That would’ve been nice to know sooner. They also told me as long as it isn’t hot to the touch and doesn’t have a foul smell to not worry that it will be ok. However I’ve tried to search online and cannot seem to find out much information AFTER nephrostomy tube removal. Does anyone know how long it took their incision area where the tube was to heal completely? Did anyone have any drainage and if so for how long? Thank you.

  15. Kathy says:

    I had a stent put in over 5 weeks ago. I still have it in and have not had my kidney stones removed which are the size of dimes. I had other medical complications. The stent doesn’t bother me.what bothers me is the constant urge to pee. And the blood and clots and the burning and chills when you pee.

  16. T-Raine says:

    Hi guys, Im from New Zealand, and my bladder’s been broken in with a ‘stent’ as at last night. This is my second stone in 2 years. First one was 5mm and this current one is 7mm. I was fortunate to have a great young Urologist on board so I understood what was going on. Here’s a few things I’ve learned:
    1. You know they’re coming, when your pee changes to a dark colour. That’s the time to drink HEAPS and drink more URAL sachets. Prepare yourself with Oxynorm or Tramadol, cos they’re about to take you down.
    2. Boom, they’ve arrived. So – Writhing around can be cured with Painkillers – but then, your drugged up for hours and that’s about as good as it gets. All u can do is hope you can pee it out – any moment now. But haaaardly ever does it happen that way.
    3. The Specialists say to you – your going to theatre and you are getting a stent. Just know that is code for…you are now going to go from sharp pains to burning ones where u had none before.
    4. The after theatre pain can vary but I’d be very cautious as to how much pills you take and for what reason. In the end, you end up taking a heap and feeling like complete and utter crap.
    5. Wait 4 weeks for them to remove the stent and the stone.

    My advice?
    – Insist that they tell you how many stones they can see from your CT scan so you are prepared for future comebacks
    – Drink URAL sachets as part of your everyday routine. At least 1 a day to keep stones from growing at all
    – Drink 2litres of Water as part of your daily ritual
    – Pray.

    All the very best to everyone suffering. I wish there was a more simple answer, but there isn’t. So, it’s best to face the worst and counteract the pain as best we can.
    Stay strong xx

  17. Heather says:

    I have to have surgery today at 12:15 on the 3mm kidney stone. He taking it and putting a stent in for 9 days that is long enough.i will be happy get the stent I wonder who does it the doctor or a nurse practitioner. That appointment is scheduled March 3at 10:50that when the stent comes out is then . We will see what happens from there if I need to keep the July 7appiontment still or just cancel it or keep that with him
    He is a cute doctor and very nice doctor and also talks slow were u can understand to what he is saying and explain
    Hope he makes me better this has been going four months now I have had a enough of it so hope it gets taken care of today and no more hurting ,heating pad,or using the ice pack either .

    • He was late to take the stent out almost told him why where u late to take the stent. I understand the surgery source thing but not stent thing. I should have not want through with it. But now i can’t complain about back pain anymore. Just hospital have to pay out butt but my grandmother is helping with those.

  18. Kassidy Wyatt-Mcwhorter says:

    My daughter had lithotripsy about 5 months ago and a stent was put in to help with passing k any remaining stones. She had insurance then but has lost her insurance since then. The doctor wont remove it without her insuram e and shes been to ER a couple of times because of blood in urine and pain. The E R docs said her doctor needs to remove it. Meanwhile her life is in danger because of infection and all the risk that goes along with having stent in too long. Any advice would be appreciated

    • sickening. thats not advice i know…. i live in California& this is the only reason i get good medical care on time: MediCal. i had to quit my job that i didn’t get insurance w& go to living on the street homeless to qualify for MediCAL. i worked as a construction laborer for a 6 person company before that. move to a place that offers better health care coverage for people like You. You deserve it. You cant move anywhere for any reason if You are dead. i got diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy, was diagnosed w PALB2 gene mutation, had a salpingo-oopherectomy with complications that required a stent to b placed in my right ureter, it comes out tomorrow at the urologists. All thru UCSF medical. couldn’t buy better care with a billion dollars. I’m praying for Your daughter. move. I’m serious. even if You have to live homeless its better than having life threatening complications due to stingy vampires, evil do-ers who are doing the work of Satan by depriving some who cant afford it of the gift of life& health!!! sickening. so SO sorry

    • Shirlene says:

      Obamacare covers “everyone” go to website for the State you live in . Exp Covered California. Your daughter can be insured immediately. Hurry, because Mr Trump working to shut it down. Very sad that the doc who placed the stent will not assist your daughter. Stents are not meant to be “long term” Good luck

  19. Michael Flanary says:

    I had a large stone removed on Feb 14th and have had a stint in for a week now. The string just got caught in my sweat pants and pulled the strings a little bit and now I am in so much pain from my Blatter to my kidney. Getting this out on Friday, but now I’m nervous because everyone says it hurts real bad. It’s my first and hopefully my last. Anyone have any tips? Let you know how it goes.

  20. Dotti says:

    I am a habitual kidneys tone former, stopped counting after 70. I’ve had them cut out (before lipsotripsy, they cut from belly bone to backbone then cut kidney to get it! Spent all day Thursday in ER, I knew it was a big one. Luckily the dr didn’t do a CT scan, he did an ultrasound. Each CT is the worst radiation. They sent me home, the urologist got me in for surgery Friday. I had at least 6, the largest was 14 + mm. He got all the big ones. He left a Stent in who’s has been as painful as stones, lots of bleeding and throbbing pain. Dr told me to put my big girl panties on. Isn’t working! Ouchy

    • Dotti says:

      I also have had lipatripsy, baskets and passed quite a few. Two years ago passed a 9+ stone

    • Cath says:

      Don’t you love when they say comments like put your big girl panties on? I just want to say let me kick you in the nuts, then in 5 min after you can catch you breath I’m going to kick you again. We will repeat this process for an hour then I will tell you to put you big boy underwear on.

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