Urinary stents, sometimes called ureteral stents, hold the ureter open so urine can drain as usual. The ureter connects the bladder and kidneys.

Urinary stents are typically placed temporarily for about 3 to 6 weeks, usually while you recover from a surgical procedure.

Regardless of why they’re inserted, experts recommend replacing or removing them at least every 2 to 3 months.

Typically, a healthcare practitioner removes the thin, hollow tube in office. If you’re due for this procedure, you may wonder what to expect. Here’s what to know about the process, pain level, and recovery.

To minimize pain, your care team will likely apply a topical anesthetic to the urethra. If you’re concerned about pain, you can also ask about receiving general anesthesia.

The most common method to remove the stent is with cystoscopy:

  1. After numbing the area, your urologist will place a thin, flexible tube called a cystoscope through your urethra. The cystoscope has a camera attached so your urologist can view the inside of your bladder.
  2. Sometimes, there’s a string attached to the stent from the end of your urethra. If the stent has a string attached, your urologist will gently pull on it to remove the stent.
  3. If there’s no string, they’ll use a tool called a scope to grasp the coil in the bladder and pull it out through your urethra.
  4. Your urologist will ask you to urinate to clear the area.

The whole process should only take a few minutes.

Since the anesthetic is usually localized, you don’t need anyone to come with you to the clinic and drive you home. You can also eat as usual before and after the procedure.

Can I remove it myself?

In some cases, you may also be able to remove the stent at home by pulling it out carefully via the string attached.

If this is a safe option for you, your urologist will give you additional directions and specify exactly when to remove it.

In the unlikely event the string breaks or the stent does not come out, call your urologist.

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Topical anesthetic will help alleviate much of the pain and discomfort of the procedure.

Still, many people report pain after the procedure is finished. In a small 2021 study with 327 participants, about 25% of them experienced pain following urinary stent removal. There’s a much greater risk of pain if the stent was left in for less than a week, though researchers aren’t sure why.

Female participants and younger participants were also more likely to report post-op pain.

In a 2015 study with 571 participants who underwent either cystoscopy or string removal, the average pain reported for the removal process was rated at 4.8 out of 10. In addition, 57% reported moderate to severe pain levels (4 or more out of 10).

Researchers found that the in-office cystoscopy procedure resulted in the highest pain level.

After the stent is out, you may experience:

  • the urge to urinate more frequently for a couple of days
  • burning while urinating for a couple of days
  • slightly pink urine for several days
  • fatigue

After the procedure, your care team may advise you to:

  • drink lots of fluids, usually about 2 to 3 liters, to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • take prescription or over-the-counter pain medication, depending on pain level
  • take prophylactic antibiotics as directed by your care team to reduce the risk of infection
  • take warm baths or use a hot compress to soothe the bladder region
  • drink juice or eat fibrous foods, like fruits and veggies, or take a stool softener, like Colace, to prevent constipation
  • rest as needed
  • avoid strenuous activity or lifting heavy items for at least a day

Most people can resume their usual activities about a day after the procedure. If you feel very tired or experience pain in your kidney area, however, you may need to avoid intense activity and rest for an extra day or two.

If you experience any of the following symptoms after stent removal, seek emergency medical care:

  • fever of more than 101.5°F (38.6°C), especially when accompanied by sweating or tremors
  • bright red blood or large blood clots in your urine
  • urine so opaque that you can’t see through it
  • inability to urinate
  • chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • pain in your groin, thigh, back of knee, or calf
  • inflammation or redness of your leg
  • pain below your rib cage and above the waist on your backside
  • loss of consciousness

Also call your urologist if you have:

  • severe pain that’s not responding to medication
  • persistent pain when urinating for more than 48 hours
  • a feeling of urgency or need to urinate a lot for more than 48 hours

These symptoms could indicate an infection or another issue requiring additional treatment.

Urinary stent removal may involve an in-office cystoscopy or an at-home removal with a string. The process should only take a few minutes.

Though the procedure itself shouldn’t hurt much, many people report feeling some level of pain and discomfort afterward. Call your urologist if you experience severe pain post-removal.

If you have symptoms like coughing up blood, fever of more than 101.5°F (38.6°C), chest pain, or inability to urinate, seek emergency care right away.