To understand the management of nephrostomy tubes, you first need to know what they are.

A nephrostomy tube is a narrow tube that is used to drain the urine from the kidney. This is inserted to redirect urine away from the kidney and ureter into an external bag. Nephrostomy tubes can be inserted for a number of different reasons, some of the most common including:

  • Obstruction and infection behind a kidney/ureteric stone (pyonephrosis)
  • Ureteric injuries
  • Ureteric fistulae
  • Obstruction of the ureter from cancer or benign conditions.

In the majority of cases, the tubes will be removed once the issue has resolved. In rare cases the nephrostomy tubes may be permanent as the underlying condition cannot be reversed. In this situation they need to be regularly changed and understanding the the management of nephrostomy tubes is important here.

The procedure is usually performed under local anaesthetic by our Uroradiology colleagues in the X-ray department.  Afterwards you will stay in hospital for a few hours. During your stay your doctor and nurses will ensure that the procedure has been successful and that the urine is passing through the tube correctly. The site of the tube may be painful for a few days after the surgery, but can be managed with regular painkillers. Lots of patients will notice that there is blood in their urine.

The risks associated with a nephrostomy tube are very low, however it is important that you are aware of them:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding from the kidney
  • Tube blockages

Management of nephrostomy tubes: Tube displacement

By the time you leave hospital your nurses will have taught you how to manage your nephrostomy tube. You should be able to continue normal activities however make sure that you are careful when doing sudden movements. Here are some helpful tips to follow:

  • Change your bag as often as your doctor tells you to
  • Wash your hands before and after changing your bag
  • Drink lots of fluids; we recommend 2 litres of water a day as will reduces your risk of infection and ensure the tube remains healthy and open

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.