What is Ureteral Stent Placement?
What to expect after a ureteral stent is placed? What can you do to help your recovery?
A ureteral stent is a thin, straw-like tube, that is put in a ureter to help drain urine from the kidney to the bladder. A curl at each end of the stent holds it in place.
Stents are most commonly used to treat blockages, especially from kidney stones. If a kidney does not drain it can become damaged. Stents are also placed after surgery involving the ureter to allow it to heal. A stent may be needed for weeks, even months, depending on why it was placed. Ask your Urologist what the plan is for your stent.
Sometimes a string is attached to the end of the stent to make it easier to remove. If you can feel a string, leave it alone, do not pull it. If the stent is accidentally pulled out too soon or pulled out of position, you may need another procedure to put a new stent in.
After a stent is placed you will see red color from blood in your urine, even tiny clumps. You will have some pain in your side and back called flank pain. Some patients have more pain than others. This pain is mostly caused by spasms or cramping of the ureter and bladder. It can be worse when you try to urinate.
Most patients also have bladder irritation from the stent. This can be urinary frequency, needing to urinate often and urinary urgency, or feeling strongly that you “have to go”.
You will be given a prescription for narcotic pain medicine for the first 1-2 days. These medications are not as helpful with stent pain as we would like them to be and they can cause nausea and constipation. You may be prescribed a type of medication called an anticholinergic or an alpha-blocker. These medications work to lessen the cramps and spasms and can be helpful with this type of pain.
There are several things that you can do to help your pain and prevent problems from the stent. First, be sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Avoid sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol to get the most help. You may get the best relief with heat and the most comfortable resting position tends to be in a recliner with knees bent. Use heating pads carefully, severe burns happen very easily, so never sleep with a heating pad or put directly on your skin. Don’t trap the heat by lying on the pad. And always unplug it after use. You can also try ice for the pain, if you do, wrap the ice-pack in a towel before placing it against your skin.
The first few days after you get your stent eat small light meals. Use over the counter pain medications such as Tylenol, Motrin, Aleve or other medication only as recommended by your physician. Constipation is a very common side effect of the stent itself, as well as from the anesthesia and pain medication. To keep your stool soft drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, at least 2 liters which is about one-half gallon or 8 cups of liquid. This will also help to clear the blood from your urine. It is best if you have at least one bowel movement a day. If not, then try Miralax, 1 capful mixed in a cup of water once a day.
Call your doctor if you have trouble with diarrhea, vomiting or worsening constipation. Call if you cannot urinate or are constantly leaking, because the stent may have moved out of position. Call if you have a fever, back or belly pain that is getting worse even with heat, rest and medication. And call to be seen for blood in the urine that is getting worse with large red clots. Hospital admission, medication or surgery may be needed to fix some problems. Let your doctor know if you go to the hospital or are admitted.
You may be able to work and do light exercise while the stent is in place. However, increasing activity may cause more bladder irritation, back pain, and blood in your urine.
After your stent procedure call to schedule a follow-up office visit with the Urologist. If you have strings, you may have the stent removed in the office or the Urologist may have you pull the stent out yourself at home when it is time.
If your stent does not have strings, or you can not feel them, it will be removed by your surgeon during a short outpatient procedure. A cystoscope, an instrument that has a light and a lens, is used to see and reach the stent. Numbing medicine is placed on a scope before the surgeon places the scope into your urethra to the bladder to gently pull and remove the stent.
If your surgeon tells you to take the stent out at home, it is easy. First, wash and dry your hands.
Stand in the shower or over a toilet, hold both threads of the string, start urinating and then pull gently. You may feel achiness in your back but do not stop, keep pulling until it is all of the way out.
After the stent is out, look at it, the stent should be about 10 inches long and have a curl at each end. If it does not, call your doctor.
Motrin, Advil or Aleve can help with back pain or spasm that happens after the stent has been pulled. Keep drinking plenty of fluids and call your Urologist’s office if you have any questions or concerns.
For your safety, share a list of your medications, including vitamins and supplements, and allergies to medications, including latex and tape with your Urologist before your procedure and keep your care team informed of any changes.
This video is intended as a tool to help you to better understand the care instructions that you have been given. It is not intended to replace any specific advice or personal care instructions that you have received from your care team. If you have any questions or problems please be sure to call or be seen.