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What is a Ureteric stent?

A Ureteric stent is a specially designed hollow tube, made of a flexible plastic material that is placed in the ureter. It is anchored in place by the coils at both ends with one end anchored in the kidney and the other end in the bladder. It is also called a pigtale stent or double JJ stent.

There are different types of stents, and some of these differences allow a stent to provide different benefits depending on the situation.

A stent placed inside the urinary system

How is a ureteric stent placed?

Usually a stent is placed under a general anaesthetic using a cystoscope which is passed through the urethra into the bladder. The stents are then placed in the ureter and kidney via the opening of the ureter in the bladder. The stent may be inserted as an additional part of an operation on the ureter and kidney (e.g. ureteroscopy). Occasionally they are placed from the kidney down to the bladder using special x-ray techniques. The correct position of a stent is checked by taking an x-ray.

How long will the stent stay in my body?

In theory, the stent can remain in the body for six month without the need to replace it. In the majority of patients, the stents are required for only a short duration, from a few weeks to a few months There are special stents, which may be left in for a much longer time. Your urologist will tell you how long he expects your stent to remain in place.

Is there an alternative option to having a stent?

There is no simple alternative option. In some patients, a tube draining the urine to the outside called a 'nephrostomy tube', may be placed in the kidney. However, this involves carrying a urine collection bag attached to your back, which requires proper care. If you need this treatment your urologist will explain in detail what is involved.

What are the possible side effects associated with a stent?

Complete understanding of these side effects and their causes is not clear at present. It has also not been possible to predict, before placement of a stent, which patients are likely to experience side effects and what they will be. Many patients do not experience problems with the stents. In the majority of the patients experiencing side effects these are minor and tolerable. However sometimes they can be moderate to severe in nature.

Discomfort or pain

Stents can cause discomfort or pain, commonly in the bladder and kidney (loin) area, but sometimes in other areas such as the groin, urethra and genitals. The discomfort or pain may be more noticeable after physical activities and after passing urine.

Urinary symptoms

Such as an increased frequency of passing urine; sudden urge to rush to pass urine (urgency); intermittent blood in the urine, which is quite common and the situation can improve with a greater fluid intake; a sensation of incomplete emptying of the bladder. These symptoms are possibly due to the presence of the stent inside the bladder causing mechanical irritation. These symptoms are similar to that of a urinary tract infection and it is important to exclude this problem. These stent related symptoms resolve when the stent is removed.

How does a stent interfere with daily life?

You can still go to work and play sports when you have a stent in place. However, you may feel more tired and experience discomfort during the day limiting your performance. In addition, you may need to visit a toilet more frequently and so need convenient access to a toilet.

Travel is possible, although medical attention may be required rarely. As stents can have side-effects, your ability to enjoy yourself may be limited as a result.

There are no restrictions on sexual activity, although there may be less enjoyment as a result of the side-effects described above.

What other complications are possible?

Occasionally a stent may develop a crystal coating on its surface. Usually this is not a significant problem. Very occasionally a stent may get displaced, usually slipping towards the bladder, and it may even fall out.

If this happens, you should contact the hospital or your GP.

What additional care is necessary when a stent is in place?

Drink at least 2 litres of fluids a day

Discuss with your urologist if you have troublesome side-effects

When might it be necessary to call a doctor?

You should contact a doctor if
  • constant and unbearable pain related to the stent
  • symptoms of a urine infection (fever, rigours, feeling unwell and pain passing urine
  • the stent falls out
  • if there is a significant increase in the amount of blood in the urine
  • How is a stent removed?

    This is a short procedure and consists of removal of the stent using a cystoscope, usually under local anaesthesia, however, a general anaesthetic is sometime required.