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.

 

1,894 Responses to All about ureteral stents

  1. tms says:

    I am 48 and I just had my first kidney stone. My first symptom was Christmas day, and I went to ER two days later and had 5mm stone in right ureter. They gave me script for pain meds and referred me to urologist if stone did not pass within the week. It did not. The imaging at my follow-up showed that the stone had not moved at all. So he recommended lithotripsy, which I had one week later. That procedure went fine. My next follow-up was two weeks after that and imaging show very little progress. He recommended cystoscopy to be done the next day. They removed the stone and placed a stent.
    That stent was the absolute worst, most excruciating pain I have ever felt.
    The procedure went well, but I was not very well prepared for what was to come. Discharge nurse told me “you might feel some discomfort in your bladder when you urinate.” What she should have said was “it might hurt like a mofo when you urinate.”
    She said “it might sting a little when you urinate.” What she should have said was “it might sting like shards of glass passing through dragon flames when you urinate.”
    Urinating took me about 10 minutes because I could not relax and I kept having to stop. It was so bad that I cried the whole time, in fact, I started crying as soon as the realization that I had to go hit me, and I would cry and pace through the bathroom for several minutes before mustering up the courage to go. I had to squeeze one of those big scrunch/stress balls (that I luckily had in my craft room) while going. Its a good thing those things don’t bust when squeezed too hard. I highly recommend those to anyone with a newly placed stent. It won’t make the pain go away, but it helps a little with the stress of going. Also, my other tip, don’t try to rush when you are going. That only makes it worse.
    No one really talks about the anxiety you go through. It was just horrible. I cried more during that week of the stent than I have my whole adult life. And just knowing what would be happening during the stent removal also left my anxiety level extremely high. I couldn’t eat or sleep that whole week and the medications made me feel like crud. The stent was removed Feb 2.
    I wouldn’t wish this on anyone! And I am so sorry for anyone going through it for the first time and not knowing what to expect.
    Try the stress ball. The bigger the better, I think. Mine is almost the size of a basketball and I don’t think anything smaller would have worked.

  2. Elizabeth Tulloch says:

    3 weeks ago, I started feeling very uncomfortable with a pain on my left side, in my waist. 2 days later, the pain travelled down my groin and round my back. The next day, I was in the worst pain ever and admitted to hospital late Sunday night. They scanned me on the Monday afternoon and took me to Theatre to remove the stone. Unfortunately, I had an abscess on my kidney that had burst and had a serious infection so they put a stent in and put me on a large dose of intravenous antibiotics. I was in for 4 days and gave me a further 5 days of oral antibiotics. The pain was still bad and very uncomfortable but yesterday the pain is back in my waist, down my groin and round my back. I’m terrified that I’m going to be in the same pain as before. Has the infection not cleared or is it the 2cm stone? I’m taking dihydrocodeine and paracetamol but it’s not working. I had diclofenac suppositries and oramorph in hospital which worked wonders. I don’t know what to do, any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

  3. Matthe Eubanks says:

    I have a stent in my right ureter. It has been there for many months (approx 14). I plan to have it removed but wanted to know what the typical success rate was? I have a birth defect in my ureter and it was too small where it went into the kidney, this prevented my kidney from flushing and filtering properly. They placed the stent in hoping it would fix the problem. But when i went to have it removed the doctor didnt want to, he said it may not work and just wanted to do surgery. I want to know if anyone else has had this happen and if the stent fixed the defect? Or if anyone with a simliar problem what was the success of the stent? I am praying the stent fixed the issue as i REALLY dont want surgery to correct the problem. Thank you!

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