Kidney stent (medically called a ureteric stent) is a specially designed hollow tube, made of a flexible plastic material. It is commonly placed inside the ureter, between the kidney and the bladder, in order to temporarily relieve obstruction.
Occasionally, one or both ureters may become blocked and prevent the flow of urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Any blockage within the urinary tract that affects the flow of urine can be dangerous. Urine that is backed up in the kidneys causes infections and can also cause serious damage to the kidneys. It is, therefore, vitally important for any blockage within the urinary tract to be promptly relieved, and the cause of the blockage removed or treated.
Stents are designed to stay in the urinary system by having both the ends coiled. The top end coils in the kidney and the lower end coils inside the bladder to prevent it from being displaced during physical activity. Stents are flexible enough to withstand various body movements. The length of the stents used in adult patients varies between 24 to 30 cm.
When is a Kidney Stent Used?
Although there are different types of stents, they all serve the same purpose. The purpose of a stent is to allow drainage of urine from the kidneys to the bladder, whenever there is blockage of the ureters.
Ureteric Stent is sometimes used in the following circumstances:
When it is essential to relieve obstruction (such as kidney stone) on a temporary basis, before treatment of the underlying condition is carried out.
It is not possible to identify what has caused an obstruction and immediate treatment is necessary.
Following an operation on the ureters. It takes time for the ureters to heal, so stents are used as a temporary measure to prevent obstruction and allow the ureters to heal properly.
Inserting a Kidney Stent
The procedure for inserting a ureteric stent is relatively straight-forward. A patient is usually placed under general anesthetic before inserting the stent. A special telescope called a cystoscope is then passed through the urethra into the bladder.
The stent is then placed into the ureter and kidney via the opening of the ureter in the bladder. The correct position of a stent is then checked by taking an x-ray.
How is a Kidney stent removed?
Once the underlying condition that caused blockage of the ureter is resolved and the ureter is healed, the stent can be removed. Kidney stent removal is a short procedure.
The stent is removed using a cystoscope, usually under local anesthesia. Sometimes a stent can be left with a thread attached to its lower end that stays outside the body through the urethra. The doctors can remove such stents by just pulling this thread.
How does a kidney stent affect daily activities?
A patient with a stent can perform most activities with little or no problems. There are some situations, however, where having a stent can affect daily activities. Let us look at some of the activities that can be affected by a stent inserted in the urinary tract.
Physical activities and sports - Provided the underlying kidney condition and your health allows it, most patients can carry on with various physical activities while the stent is in place. However, some discomfort may be experienced in the kidney area and passing of blood in the urine, especially if sports and strenuous physical activities are involved. Sometimes side effects associated with a stent can make you feel more tired than normal. It is advisable to moderate physical activities while the stent is in place.
Work activities - Depending on the nature of work, it is possible to continue to work normally with an inserted stent. However, work that involves strenuous physical activities may have to be limited, since it can cause some discomfort. Occasionally side effects, such as urinary symptoms and pain associated with the stent, may cause a patient to feel tired. If the stent causes significant problems, it may be advisable for a patient discuss their situation with their manager and colleagues, so that possible temporary adjustments can be made to the patient's work schedule.
Social life and interactions - The presence of a kidney stent should not significantly affect your social life. Symptoms such as, increased frequency and urgency of urination, may require that a patient use public toilets more frequently, while taking part in outdoor activities. Occasionally, a little extra help may be needed from family members or colleagues, because of any pain or tiredness experienced.
Sex - Few patients experience discomfort during sexual activities. Occasionally the side effects associated with the stent may reduce sexual desire. If a patient has a ureteric stent with a thread coming outside the body through the urethra, sexual activities may be difficult. Care will also be required so as not to dislodge the thread, which could in turn displace the stent.
Thankfully, most patients only have to put up with these inconveniences for a short period of time. Once the underlying condition is resolved and the ureter is sufficiently healed, the stent can be removed and life returns to full normalcy.