How does Kidney stone stent help?

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image of urinary system

The urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureter, bladder, and urethra. The urine formed in the kidney is carried to the bladder by a fine muscular tube called a ureter. The urinary bladder acts as a reservoir for the urine and, when it is full, it is emptied via the urethra. Sometimes the ureter may become blocked or obstructed, preventing urine from being excreted from the body. Whenever there is an obstruction, pressure builds up within the kidney, which can cause kidney damage (leading to kidney failure). The obstruction can also cause stagnation of the urine, which can lead to infection and further damage to the kidneys. It is, therefore, important to relieve or prevent obstruction of the kidney.

What is kidney stone stent?

Kidney stone stent is one of the treatments for kidney stones and to relieve obstruction. A kidney stone stent is a plastic tube inserted between the kidney and the bladder to remove stones from kidney. Coil or J-shaped hooks at either end of the stent keeps it place so that it cannot drift once it is inserted. When a doctor suggests stent for a patient, doctor estimates how long the stent should be and a plan is required for the removal of the stent. Stent is  inserted into the patient's body after the removal of kidney stones  to ensure that urine drains properly for few days. A kidney stone stent can be left in place for up to 6 weeks.

How is kidney stent inserted?

A kidney stone stent is inserted to help a patient pass a kidney stone. When a kidney stent stone is inserted into the patient's body they are given  a local anesthetic depending upon the situation.  A Cystoscope (Cystoscope is an instrument which includes a camera to gather the information about the stent.) is inserted into the urinary tract to allow the doctor to see and the stent is carefully threaded into the ureter. The correct position of a stent is then checked by taking an x-ray. The stent helps urine drain from the kidneys to the bladder, clearing any obstructions and hopefully taking stones along with it. If the stent is left in too long, it can develop deposits of material which could lead to infection or obstruction of the ureter.

Living with a kidney stent 

In the majority of patients, kidney stents are required for only a short period of time. This could range from a few weeks to a few months. When the underlying problem is not a kidney stone, the stent can be left in for several months. While side effects are usually mild, a stent can sometimes be uncomfortable. Some of the side effects include:

  • An increased frequency of passing urine
  • The need to rush to pass urine (urgency)
  • A small amount of blood in the urine. This is quite common and the situation can improve with a greater fluid intake.
  • The stents can also result in a sensation of incomplete emptying of the bladder.
  • Very occasionally, especially in women, there is a slight risk of incontinence episodes.
  • Patients with a stent in place will be aware of its presence most of the time.
  • Discomfort or pain, commonly in the bladder and kidney (loin) area. Sometimes this can affect other areas such as the groin, urethra and genitals. The discomfort or pain may be more noticeable after physical activities and after passing urine.

A patient may experience one or some of these symptoms, especially soon after the ureteric stent is inserted. There is a tendency, however, for some of these symptoms, such as pain while passing urine and blood in the urine, to improve with time.

Do stents help in treating kidney stones?

Yes, stents are used to treat kidney stones. Kidney stones are mineral deposits that crystallize in the kidneys or in the ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Some kidney stones pass on their own, while others require medical treatment. A stent is a hollow, flexible tube used to treat kidney stones in certain circumstances.

Doctor might decide to insert a stent in combination with other surgery to break up or completely remove the stone. If a particularly large stone has been removed, you might experience extensive swelling. In this case, your doctor might insert a stent to keep the ureter open so urine can flow freely to your bladder. You might have a kidney stone that your doctor cannot remove because it is too large or because it's in an area where surgical removal is impossible. In this case, your doctor might use a stent so the stone doesn't move to obstruct the ureters. If a ureter is already obstructed, a stent can help clear the passage.