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.

 

917 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. Niral says:

    My mom has lymph node on urinal , which creates pressure on vein, so she has problem in urine, creatinine is high upto 2, Doctors are advising her to put ureteral stent, please guide us is it correct decision?

  2. evelyn says:

    I appreciate everyone’s comments on here. I am 41 years old and have dealt with stones for 21 years. Just last week i had my 6th stone removal surgery and 4th or 5th stent put in. I hate stents, but i also know they are used for good. For me, the first few days are horrible. Pain, discomfort are continuous. Then the feeling I have to pee all the time. Fortunately, this one is coming out tomorrow.

  3. kayleigh says:

    I’ve had my stent in now for just over 2 weeks and i am still in a lot of pain on a lot of medication and still have blood in my urine but i guess im just one of th unfortunate ones, peoples bodys react differently to things if you have any worries atall about any side affects go to your gp thats their job to help.

  4. David says:

    I have had stents since end of June and now a replacement stint after a follow-up
    kidney procedure for more stones. This site is giving the wrong message to those
    who will get stints. I have never had any pain from the stints, unaware that they are
    there except that sometimes in urination, I can feel them slightly. I guess I am really
    blessed, but if you are getting stints, they are life-saving for the kidneys and do not
    necessarily cause pain. 100% of these comments describe pain, usually unbearable.

  5. Clark Braddock says:

    I get 1-2 stones every month and I pass them very easily if they are 5mm or smaller. I have had two stents and pleaded with the doctor to remove them due to the pain, it was worse than the 9mm stones. I decided to go to Mayo Clinic for a 10mm stone in Jacksonville expecting them to be more patient oriented. The urologist snickered at my insistence that he not use a stent and he then suggested he would leave it in for 10 days after the stone removal. It seemed the more I objected the longer he would leave the stent in. Does anyone know of any urology clinic that can remove stones and not use a stent? I left Mayo clinic and am searching frantically for a non-sadist urologist. The stone is still there and the pain is substantial. I will travel anywhere in North America for a urologist that will be more understanding of the pain the patient is going through.

    • Heidi says:

      My Urologist, Dr. Simmons, is wonderful. I’ve had two surgeries this month. I had a handful of stones in my left kidney and a 5mm stuck in my ureter, and a 1CM (!!!) stone stuck in my right kidney. He layered the stones in my left kidney first and put two stents in. A week and a half later he removed the stents during surgery, blasted the giant stone, and added a new Stent in the left ureter. So, he does use stents, however any time I have had concerns, even on a Sunday, he, or somebody from his office, has been available to ensure that everything is find. They are very considerate and attentive. My doctor is in Bend Oregon. My Stent comes out on Monday. I truly cannot wait. It’s simply awful, but the alternative, failed kidney, is worse.

  6. Sehrish says:

    Initially about 2.5 months ago, urine stopped and were having pain in both kidneys. U/S showed stone in right ureter, which have been passed within month through medication. Post stone pass symptoms were; very low urine output (approx. 150 ml x max. 2 ~3 times a day) with pain in both kidneys, bladder especially right side and feeling of bladder fullness but unable to pass the urine. Urine stopped 2 time while it was intentionally hold to full the bladder for U/S and it was hard to empty the bladder for post void measurements. It took more than 24 hrs. to pass the urine again. 5 days ago, urine was stopped for more than 20 hrs. feeling pain in bladder with feeling of its fullness, Intermittent catheter passed. Immediately 2~3 liters of urine discharged. After that having urine approx. 150 ml x 4~5 times a day (without feeling bladder full). As per CT Scan report, there is minimal fullness in both renal pelvis and right side of ureter.
    Currently breath shortness, increased heart rate, dizziness, On & Off pain in both kidneys, low daily urine vol., having fever most of the time & as well as shivering from cold.
    Someone please advise me on this!

  7. Nicolle says:

    It will be a full two weeks tomorrow since I had my right renal stent inserted and as stated in previous comments nothing much has changed. The only thing I do know is that unless I completely immobilise my body from my chest down (except for quick pee breaks), nothing I take or do will relieve my pain & bleeding at all. Which everyone knows is completely impossible. I’m also required to have a urine test done every three days to keep on top of the infection this is causing. I’m completely miserable.

  8. Scott - UK says:

    I wanted to comment because I read some horror stories on here before I had my stent fitted, and it scared me to death! I had my stent fitted last week, and although the surgeon wasn’t actually able to fit my stent on the first attempt by going up the ureter, (due to the shape and condition of my ureter) so I had to have a second operation in which I was only given local anesthetic, and the stent was placed into my back, down through my kidney and down to my bladder.
    The stent has been in place now for a week, and although the first few times I went to the bathroom was painful, I am now in no pain at all. I had blood in my urine for 4 days, but now I am experiencing no side effects at all.
    I just wanted to put some people’s minds at ease, as it appears as though you only read the horror stories on here.

    • Annebanann@gmail says:

      Same for me… this is my second time with a stent . The first was miserable but with this second stent, the first couple of pees hurt but after that was able to function on a azo, flomax, and ibuprofen. Not a sunny walk in the park but bearable. 3 days total. After removal I’ve experience pain in groin but temporary. Best is to avoid stones at all! Research urine pH and get alkaline levels up! Blessings and speedy recovery!

  9. Kathy F. says:

    I just had a megagillionth lithotrypsy after having had one in Feb of this year, and again, another round with a stent. I’m up every 5 min trying to pee because it feels exactly like a uti!!! Last time I had a stent nothing helped. This,time, flax and the Pyridium are helping but just a tad. I am 3 days post op from litho and I’m going back to work today and as,a supervisor I’m always on my feet which makes for excruciating discomfort from the stent. Horrible thing to have in me, but feels,so good when it comes out!

  10. melinda layton says:

    had a stone removed at a local hospital by a well-respected doctor . he also inserted a stent during the same procedure. i was awake (after this procedure and all through the night with paiin, cramps, and quite a bit of loose stools which made it impossible to sleep. I am sltill in terrible pain after taking 1/2 a box of AZO (over-the-counter) meds.
    i had relatively little pain before the surgery, but now i am REALLY in pain. i called my doctor to inquire about pain meds but never heard back. do you have any suggestions
    I can try at home.. thank you for reading my concerns Melinda Layton. (address removed)

  11. Kiwanis Tra says:

    HI everyone, I had surgery for kidney stones on August 5 2015. The stents were put in during surgery. This has been the worst ordeal I can recall. The pain from having the stents put in place are just as bad as the kidney stone itself…They are not comfortable at all, and even taking the pain pills only gives minor relief temporarily. I had other issues that developed which prevented the removal as scheduled, so I’m at two weeks now still trying to have mine removed. I haven’t been able to go back to work yet due to the pain and uncomfortable feeling. The doctors should really be honest and let you know how complex these stents are before they put them in place.

  12. Nikki says:

    Hello all.
    Had 2 stones (one for each kidney) removed on Tuesday after they found that both stones were blocking kidney function, and the doc put stents in both my left and right ureter after the stones were removed. He claimed there would be some cramping and bleeding and minimal pain. This is supposed to help, right? Wrong. I have never been in so much pain in my life. The stones hurt LESS. C-section recovery hurt less. I thought maybe the pain would lessen as the infection left my body…but yeah no. They rxd Norco..which some friends (one was in a bad car accident and the other has MS) claim is “the best” but it’s not even keeping the pain at bay for more than 2 hours at this point, and gives me weird hallucinations when I try to sleep. About to go back to the ER for pain management and to have them remove these darn stents. The left side seems to hurt more than the right, which was odd as the right kidney had the larger stone.

    • michele says:

      Norco is only loritab & tylenol mixed together. You should not have hallucinations from that. That’s weird

    • Michelle says:

      I feel your pain. I had only 1 stent put in on the 19th of August. They gave me Norco too for the pain and I too have hallucinations when I try to sleep…plus it makes me very sick to my stomach….the sad part is your right it doesn’t even last very long at all. Now I feel like I have a yeast infection the last day or so…this is horrible. I agree I am in more pain since the surgery then I was with the stone. I just pray the other 3 I have don’t get stuck like this one did……I REALLY DO NOT want to go through this again.

  13. Myriam says:

    Hi…I had a stent replacement in on June 20th 2015 and still to this day have it…this has been the worse experience I ever had..the pain is unbelievable and I guess what it makes it worse is my job..I believe at this point no medication is or will help me they have changed my medson three times already and nothing the sad part I will have the stent in for another month because for the second time I will be have a shock wave to try once again to break up my kind which I still have

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