What is a nephrostomy? 

Urine normally drains from your kidneys into your bladder through small muscular tubes called ureters. A nephrostomy is a procedure to drain urine from your kidney using a catheter. The procedure is performed by a radiologist (doctor who specialises in x-rays and scans).

What are the benefits of a nephrostomy?

The main benefit is to reduce the risk of your kidney being damaged without having to have surgery. It will give your doctor 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 place 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 correct position, they will replace it with the catheter (see figure 1).


The catheter will be attached to a plastic bag to hold the urine.

Are there any risks involved with a nephrostomy?

Potential risks and side effects include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • 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 later 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 the ureter is blocked and to treat the problem.

Paying for your procedure

Neprostomy costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own procedure the cost will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the procedure. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.


Author: Dr Adrian Manhire FRCP FRCR Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM

Copyright © 2010 Nucleus Medical Art. This information is produced by EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by BMI Healthcare. You may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information other than for your personal, non-commercial use. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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