A kidney stone stent is a flexible plastic tube inserted between a kidney and the bladder to facilitate the passage of a kidney stone. Also known simply as a stent, a kidney stone stent is simply one of many treatment options which can be considered for kidney stones. If a doctor recommends a stent for a patient, the doctor should be able to estimate how long the stent will be left in, and he or she should articulate a plan for the removal of the stent.
When a kidney stone stent is placed, the patient may be given a general or a local anesthetic, depending on the situation. A cystoscope is inserted into the urinary tract to allow the doctor, commonly a urologist, to see, and the stent is carefully threaded into the ureter and left in place. Coils or J-shaped hooks at either end of the stent keep it place so that it cannot drift once it has been inserted. As a general rule, a kidney stone stent can be left in place for up to six weeks, at which point it will need to be removed.
Commonly, a stent is inserted when it appears possible that a patient will pass a kidney stone, with a little help. The stent helps urine drain from the kidneys to the bladder, clearing any obstructions and hopefully bringing stones along with it. Stents may also be inserted after cystoscopy or surgical removal of a kidney stone to ensure that urine drains properly for a few days or weeks while the ureter gets a chance to heal. If the stent is left in too long, it can develop deposits of material which could lead to infection or obstruction of the ureter.
One of the most important things to know about a kidney stone stent is that it can be extremely painful. This varies, depending on the patient, but many people report a tugging or pulling sensation, and a constant need to urinate. The stent can become painful or irritating during exercise sessions or early in the morning, and certain body positions may be intolerable with a stent in place because they place too much strain on the stent. Some patients have expressed unhappiness because they were not adequately warned about the difficulties involved in wearing a stent, and it is important to address specific concerns such as exercise routines with a doctor before a kidney stone stent is placed.
During stent removal, the patient is usually placed under a local anesthetic while the doctor visualizes the area and gently removes the stent. Patients may experience some pain and soreness for several days after a kidney stone stent is removed, as their ureters heal.