This page will give you information about a nephrostomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.
What is a nephrostomy?
Urine normally drains from your kidneys into your bladder through small muscular tubes called ureters. Sometimes one or both of your ureters can become blocked. A nephrostomy is a procedure to drain urine from your kidney using a catheter (tube). It is usually performed by a radiologist (doctor who specialises in x-rays and scans).
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.
Are there any alternatives to a nephrostomy?
Sometimes the problem can be treated by surgery. However, this can take time and a nephrostomy will help your kidneys to carry on working.
What does the procedure involve?
The radiologist will insert the catheter through your back and in your kidney using a needle and guidewire (thin flexible wire). When the radiologist 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?
- leaking urine
- allergic reaction
- making a hole in nearby structures with the needle
- failed 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.
You may be able to go home the same day.
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.
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.
For more on how this information was prepared, click here.
Last reviewed: September 2018