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4-minute read

What is a nephrostomy?

A nephrostomy is a procedure to drain urine from your kidney using a catheter (tube). Urine normally drains from your kidneys into your bladder through small muscular tubes (ureters). Tests have shown that one or both of your ureters has become blocked.

What are the benefits of a nephrostomy?

You should have less risk of your kidney being damaged without having to have surgery. Your doctor will have time to find out why your ureter is blocked and to treat the problem.

Illustration showing a nephrostomy.
A nephrostomy.

Are there any alternatives to a nephrostomy?

Sometimes the problem can be treated by stents (tubes) or surgery. However, this can take time and a nephrostomy will help your kidneys to carry on working.

What does the procedure involve?

A nephrostomy usually takes less than 30 minutes but can take up to 45 minutes if the procedure is difficult.

Your doctor will insert the catheter in your kidney using a needle and guidewire (thin flexible wire). They will inject local anaesthetic into the area where the needle will be inserted.

When your doctor is satisfied that the needle is in the right position, they will replace it with the catheter. The catheter will be attached to a plastic bag to hold the urine.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • allergic reaction
  • making a hole in nearby structures with the needle
  • leaking urine
  • failed nephrostomy
  • blocked nephrostomy
  • radiation exposure

How soon will I recover?

You will need to stay in bed for at least a few hours to recover and rest.

The catheter will need to stay in place until the cause of the blocked ureter has been treated.

Usually you will need to stay in hospital overnight. Sometimes you can go home the same day.

If you go home while the catheter is still in place, the healthcare team will show you how to look after it and change the bag.


A blocked ureter is a serious condition. A nephrostomy is usually a safe and effective way of draining urine from your kidney to give your doctor time to find out why your ureter is blocked and to treat the problem.


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Last reviewed: September 2023

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