Can Nephrostomy Tubes Be Removed: Understanding the Process and Risks

Have you ever heard of nephrostomy tubes? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Most people are familiar with catheters, but nephrostomy tubes are a bit more obscure. These tubes are actually surgical devices that are inserted into a person’s kidney to drain urine and any other waste products that the kidney is unable to process. But once the patient has recovered from their condition, can nephrostomy tubes be removed?

The answer to that question is yes, but it’s not always a straightforward process. The removal of nephrostomy tubes can be a bit complicated, and it requires the expertise of a skilled medical professional. There are many different factors that must be taken into consideration when determining whether or not a patient is ready for nephrostomy tube removal.

In this article, we will discuss the intricacies of nephrostomy tube removal in detail. We’ll cover everything from the reasons a patient might need a tube in the first place, to the possible complications that can arise during the removal process. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have a better understanding of nephrostomy tubes, how they work, and what it takes to have them removed safely and effectively. So, buckle up and get ready to learn about the world of nephrostomy tubes!

Purpose of Nephrostomy Tubes

Nephrostomy tubes are small, flexible tubes that are inserted into the kidney through the skin and into the renal pelvis to drain urine when the normal urinary pathway is obstructed. Typically, they are used to drain urine when there is a blockage in the ureter, due to a kidney stone or tumor. They can also be used to drain urine if there is an obstruction in the bladder.

There are several reasons why someone may need a nephrostomy tube. The most common ones are:

  • To relieve a blockage in the urinary system caused by a kidney stone or other obstruction
  • To allow urine to drain when the bladder is damaged or blocked
  • To provide access to the urinary system during certain procedures
  • To treat a severe infection in the urinary system

Doctors may also use nephrostomy tubes when someone has abnormal kidney function, or to help with the healing process after a kidney transplant. They are often used in emergencies when there is no other way to drain urine from the body.

When is the Right Time to Remove Nephrostomy Tubes?

Patients who have undergone a nephrostomy tube surgery are often anxious about when the tubes can be removed. The duration for the tube to remain depend on the underlying condition that caused the tube to be inserted, as well as the patient’s overall health. Proper monitoring and screening by a trained physician are necessary to determine the optimal time for the removal.

  • Urologic Surgery: If the nephrostomy tube was inserted after urologic surgery, the duration for tube removal will vary depending on the procedure. In most cases, the tube will remain for one to two weeks, after which the physician will evaluate the patient’s condition and decide on the removal. If there are complications, the duration might be longer.
  • Cancer: Nephrostomy tube insertion is common in cancer patients who have urinary obstruction. In such cases, tube removal is subject to oncologist evaluation. The physician will monitor the patient’s health, and after administering necessary treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, the tube will be removed.
  • Kidney Stones: Nephrostomy tubes are used to facilitate the removal of kidney stones and to manage any resulting ureteral obstruction. After the stones have been broken down and cleared, the urologist will promptly remove the tube. This can be within a few days or up to several weeks post-surgery, depending on how well the patient responds to treatment.

In some cases, patients may experience difficulties after the removal of the nephrostomy tube. Complications might include blood in the urine, pain, failure to urinate or urinating often, among others. The physician will evaluate the patient, carry out various tests and recommend supportive treatment to manage any complications.

Post-removal Care

After the removal of the nephrostomy tube, it is essential to focus on post-care to avoid complications. Below are a few tips:

  • Stay active and hydrate frequently unless advised to do otherwise by the physician
  • Follow medication instructions and take all prescribed medication
  • Monitor urine output and quality and report any abnormalities to the doctor promptly
  • Avoid activities that might cause damage or trauma to the surgical site


In conclusion, the duration for nephrostomy tube removal varies depending on the underlying condition and the patient’s overall health. The physician will evaluate the patient and determine the optimal time for removal. Post-removal care is critical to avoid complications.

Pros Cons
Relief of Symptoms Complications Occur Occasionally
Increased Quality of Life Pain and Discomfort During Insertion and Removal
Quick and Effective Treatment Need for Careful Monitoring

While there are pros and cons of nephrostomy tubes, the treatment has been proven to be efficient in managing various urinary tract issues. The physician will evaluate the patient and recommend the best course of treatment.

Complications of Nephrostomy Tube Removal

While nephrostomy tube removal is generally safe, there are potential complications that patients should be aware of. These complications are often related to the healing process after the tube has been removed. Patients who experience any of these complications should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

  • Infection: The most common complication after nephrostomy tube removal is an infection. This can happen if bacteria get into the urinary tract during the healing process. Common symptoms of an infection include fever, chills, and pain in the back or side. Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat infections.
  • Bleeding: Some patients may experience bleeding after the tube is removed. This is usually minor and resolves on its own, but in some cases, more serious bleeding can occur. Patients who experience heavy bleeding should seek medical attention right away.
  • Pain: It is normal to experience some discomfort or pain after the tube is removed, but in some cases, the pain may be severe. Patients who experience severe pain should contact their healthcare provider.

In addition to these common complications, there are other potential risks associated with nephrostomy tube removal. These risks are rare, but they can be serious:

Urine leakage: In rare cases, the tube site may not heal properly, resulting in urine leakage from the incision. Patients who experience leakage should seek medical attention right away.

Kidney damage: Removing the nephrostomy tube can damage the kidney or cause a blockage in the urinary tract. This is rare and usually only occurs in patients with existing kidney problems.

Complication Symptoms Treatment
Infection Fever, chills, pain in back or side Antibiotics
Bleeding Minor bleeding or heavy bleeding May resolve on its own or medical attention required
Pain Discomfort or severe pain May resolve on its own or medical attention required
Urine leakage Leakage from incision site Medical attention required
Kidney damage Damage to kidney or blockage in urinary tract Medical attention required

If you are undergoing nephrostomy tube removal, it is important to discuss these potential complications with your healthcare provider beforehand. By understanding the risks and taking steps to prevent them, you can ensure a smoother recovery process.

How is Nephrostomy Tube Removal Performed?

Nephrostomy tubes are typically removed once the underlying urinary system problem has been resolved and the kidney is no longer blocked. The procedure for removing the tube is straightforward and entails the steps below:

  • The patient is placed in a comfortable position, with the affected side up.
  • The healthcare provider cleans the area around the tube insertion site and numbs it using a local anesthetic.
  • After numbing the area, the healthcare provider removes the stitches or tape securing the tube to the skin.
  • The provider then gently removes the tube from the kidney, usually via a small tug.

The entire procedure typically takes about 10-15 minutes and is usually well tolerated by patients. Removal is often done in an outpatient setting, and the patient can go home on the same day.

Factors Affecting Nephrostomy Tube Removal

Nephrostomy tubes are temporary tubes inserted through the skin and into the kidney to allow urine to drain out. They are commonly used to treat kidney stones, tumors, and blockages. The removal of this type of tube largely depends on several factors. Here are the different factors affecting nephrostomy tube removal:

  • Reason for insertion: The reason for the nephrostomy tube insertion impacts when it can be removed. Some conditions require an extended period of time before the tube can be removed. For instance, if the individual had developed an infection, the nephrostomy tube might have to remain in place until the kidney is fully recovered and able to function properly.
  • Drainage volume and quality: Before the tube is removed, it is crucial to monitor the volume and quality of urine draining through the tube. If there is a steady and adequate flow of clear urine, it might indicate that the nephrostomy tube can be removed. However, if drainage volumes and quality decline, it may be necessary to keep the tube in place to prevent kidney damage.
  • Overall health: An individual’s overall health situation plays a major role in determining the nephrostomy tube removal timeline. If the person is frail or has additional health conditions that might impact recovery, the tube’s removal might have to be delayed till the patient is ready and stable.
  • Access to medical care: Factors such as access to medical care, transportation to and from appointments, medication availability, and healthcare insurance coverage can impact the removal of nephrostomy tubes. It is always vital that patients have access to skilled care to manage the nephrostomy tube and its removal properly.
  • Preventing recurrence: Nephrostomy tube removal may also depend on whether the underlying cause of the condition has been resolved. For example, a patient might have had a nephrostomy tube inserted due to a kidney stone. Before removing the tube, it is crucial to ensure that all kidney stones have been eliminated so that recurrence of another kidney stone does not occur.


Nephrostomy tube removal decisions depend on many critical factors, including the reason for insertion, drainage volume and quality, overall health, access to medical care. Also, it is essential to consider preventing recurrence while approving the tube removal.

Managing the timing of nephrostomy tube removal is complex and should be evaluated on an individual basis. It requires the close collaboration of skilled medical professionals to establish criteria for safe tube removal and safe transition back to normal urinary function.

Factor Description
Reason for insertion Why was the tube initially inserted?
Drainage volume and quality Monitoring urine flow and regular checkup of urine quality.
Overall health The state of the individual and stability to handle tube removal.
Access to medical care The extent of medical care available to the individual and healthcare coverage.
Preventing recurrence The prevention of future occurrences of the condition which caused the nephrostomy tube insertion.

By properly monitoring these various components and working collaboratively with a medical team, patients can experience a safe transition back to normal urinary function, once the tube removal procedure is complete.

Pre and Post-Removal Care of Nephrostomy Tubes

Nephrostomy tubes are commonly used to help drain urine from the kidneys when a blockage or other problem prevents normal urination. Once the blockage has been cleared or the underlying condition has been treated, the tube can be removed. However, proper pre and post-removal care is essential to minimize the risk of complications.

  • Pre-Removal Care:
    • Ensure that the patient is adequately hydrated before the procedure.
    • Ask the patient to empty their bladder before the procedure.
    • Prep the area around the nephrostomy tube with an antiseptic solution to reduce the risk of infection.
    • Inform the patient about the removal procedure and what to expect.
  • Post-Removal Care:
    • Monitor the patient for complications after the removal, such as bleeding, pain, or infection.
    • Instruct the patient to keep the area around the site clean and dry for the next 24 hours.
    • Advise the patient to avoid strenuous physical activity for at least 48 hours after the removal.
    • Encourage the patient to drink plenty of fluids to help flush out any remaining debris in the urinary tract.

In addition to these general pre and post-removal care tips, there are a few specific steps that should be taken by healthcare professionals during the removal procedure itself. A local anesthetic will be used to numb the area around the tube before it is gently pulled out. The site may bleed slightly afterwards, so pressure will be applied with a sterile dressing to stop any bleeding.

Finally, the skin around the site may be cleaned with an antiseptic solution to help prevent infection. Overall, nephrostomy tube removal is a relatively simple procedure that can be done in a clinic or hospital setting. With proper care and attention, patients can recover quickly and return to their normal activities.

Complication Symptoms Action to Take
Bleeding Increased pain and swelling at the site, or blood in urine Contact healthcare provider immediately
Infection Fever, chills, and increased redness, swelling, or pus at the site Contact healthcare provider immediately
Obstruction Recurring pain in the flank area, decreased urine output, or blood in urine Contact healthcare provider immediately

These complications are rare, but it is important to be vigilant and seek medical attention promptly if any symptoms arise.

Alternatives to Nephrostomy Tubes for Urinary Drainage

Living with a nephrostomy tube can be tough. It’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, and sometimes even debilitating. Luckily, there are alternatives to nephrostomy tubes that can help with urinary drainage. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Catheterization: This involves inserting a catheter into the bladder through the urethra. It can be done by a healthcare professional or by the patient, depending on the patient’s needs and abilities. Clean intermittent catheterization is a common option.
  • External Collecting Devices: These are bags or pouches that can be attached to the skin to collect urine. They can be worn for a shorter or longer amount of time, depending on the patient’s needs and preferences.
  • Stents: A ureteral stent is a small, thin tube that is inserted into the ureter to help urine drain from the kidney to the bladder. Although stents can be problematic, they usually do not require an incision.

If you are considering an alternative to a nephrostomy tube, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to choose the best option for your specific needs. There are several factors to consider when selecting the best alternative, such as the cause of your urinary tract problem, the complexity of the problem, and whether the condition is temporary or long-term.

To help you make a decision, here are some important factors to consider when choosing an alternative to a nephrostomy tube:

Factor Considerations
Catheterization Available resources, patient ability and preference, infection risk, frequency, cost, and insurance coverage.
External Collecting Devices Patient lifestyle and activity level, reliability, fitting, comfort, infection risk, frequency, cost, and insurance coverage.
Ureteral Stents Prior stent-related issues, length of use, patient anatomical considerations, migration risks, stent blockage, infection risk, frequency of needed stent replacement, and insurance coverage.

No matter what option you choose, keep in mind that you will still need to monitor your condition and maintain good hygiene to prevent infection and other complications. Don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare provider any questions or concerns you have about the best alternative to ensure that you make the best decision for your needs.

FAQs about Can Nephrostomy Tubes be Removed?

Q: What is a nephrostomy tube?
A: A nephrostomy tube is a small, flexible tube that is placed through the skin and into the kidney to drain urine.

Q: Why are nephrostomy tubes used?
A: Nephrostomy tubes are used to bypass any obstruction in the urinary tract that prevents urine from draining properly from the kidney.

Q: Can nephrostomy tubes be removed?
A: Yes, once the obstruction is resolved, your doctor may remove the nephrostomy tube.

Q: Is the removal of nephrostomy tube painful?
A: The procedure is somewhat uncomfortable, but local anesthesia is used to minimize discomfort.

Q: How long does it take to remove a nephrostomy tube?
A: The procedure only takes a few minutes to complete.

Q: When can I resume my normal activities?
A: Your doctor will give you specific instructions regarding your physical activity, but you should be able to resume normal activities in a few days.

Q: What are the risks involved in the removal of nephrostomy tubes?
A: Risks are minimal, but in rare cases, there may be bleeding or infection.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading this article on whether or not nephrostomy tubes can be removed. If you or a loved one are facing the possibility of having a nephrostomy tube inserted or removed, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider and seek their professional guidance. It’s always better to be fully informed so you can make the best decision for your health. Please visit us again in the future for more informative articles!