Ureteric stents are fine plastic tubes that are inserted into the ureter through the urethra. They run from the kidney to the bladder and have a curl (pigtail) at each end to keep them in a safe place. An anaesthetic is required to put them in, and sometimes to remove them.
Stents are used in a number of different situations:
When a patient first comes with severe pain and an impacted stone, it is sometimes not possible to pass a ureteroscope and remove the stone immediately because of severe inflammation at the spot in the ureter where the stone has blocked. Using x-ray guidance we can usually place a stent past the stone. This unblocks the kidney and relieves the severe pain. ESWL or Ureteroscopy is carried out later.
- If there is a large stone that is to be broken up so that there is a risk that the fragments may block the ureter before passing, a stent is often used to ensure the kidney doesn’t get blocked.
- Where a ureteroscopic stone removal has been incomplete or difficult, a stent is often used to prevent post-operative complications and help the lining of the ureter heal.
How long does the stent remain in?
Stents are only required for a short duration. Your surgeon will advise you on the length of time it needs to stay in place. Each patient is different and therefore times may vary.
If your problem is not related to kidney stones, then the stent can remain in place for up to 6 months. These are special stents.
Stents are used quite frequently in more complex cases, but they have their problems. Although stents don’t worry some patients at all other patients may complain of the following symptoms:
- Marked discomfort when passing urine
- Frequency – the need to pass urine more often
- Urgency – the need to pass urine in a hurry
- Small amount of blood in the urine
- Possibly some pain in the loin area when passing urine
- Sensation of incomplete emptying
- Symptoms often improve 48-72 hours. It is important you take regular pain relief and drink adequate fluids.
Activities following insertion of stent
- Refrain from any physical or strenuous activities if the stent is in place for a short time. Gentle exercise such as walking is advised.
- You are able to return to work with the stent inside your body. If your work entails heavy physical duties, you may experience more discomfort/pain and notice blood in your urine. In this case, discuss with your employer the need for light duties.
- Maintain adequate fluid intake (1.5 – 2 litres per 24 hours).
- Take regular pain relief if experiencing discomfort/pain.
How are stents removed?
When arranged your stent can be removed in theatre via a cystoscope. This is a short procedure and is performed as a day case. In some cases, the stent can be left in place with a thread attached outside the urethra (secured firmly). The Practice Nurse can remove this a few days later (as recommended by your surgeon). If the stent is removed in the rooms, we advise you to take pain relief 20 minutes before you arrive. Following removal, we recommend you return home and rest for two hours. We also recommend you maintain a high fluid intake (2 litres per day).
You are advised to call the rooms on 03 9457 4445 and speak to the Practice Nurse if you experience the following symptoms:
- If your pain is unbearable and not relieved by pain killers
- If you have a fever
- If you feel unwell – aches/pains/lethargy/weakness
- If you notice a significant amount of blood in your urine