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What is a nephrostomy?

A nephrostomy tube is inserted into the draining system of the kidney from the outside, through the skin and muscle of the back. This is usually done as a procedure in a radiology suite, under sedation and with local anaesthetic.

There are various reasons for insertion of a nephrostomy, and the reason you need one will be discussed with you beforehand. Some reasons include:

  • As an emergency procedure if the drainage of the kidney is blocked
  • If the kidney needs drainage but it is not possible to insert a ureteric stent
  • In addition to a stent if the stent is not draining well
  • Occasionally, it is needed before a stone procedure on the kidney

Potential side effects and complications

All procedures have the potential for side effects. Although these complications are well recognised, the majority of patients do not have problems after a procedure.

There are specific risks with this procedure, and these will be discussed with you before your procedure. As a guide to complement that one-on-one discussion with your surgeon or radiologist, these include:


  • Pain at the site of insertion of the tube, that should resolve over a few days
  • Some minor bleeding in the urine
  • Some minor bleeding from the site of insertion


  • The tube may stop draining, or become dislodged and need replacement


  • Heavy bleeding from the kidney soon after insertion. This is rare, but may require a further procedure.
  • There are rare reports of aneurysms (weakened and bulging arterial lining) and fistulas (abnormal connection between a small vein and artery) late after insertion of a nephrostomy. These conditions require further procedures to correct them.


This information is intended as an educational guide only, and is here to help you as an additional source of information, along with a consultation from your urologist. The information does not apply to all patients.

Not all potential complications are listed, and you must talk to your urologist about the complications specific to your situation.


Urology Affiliations

Contact Us

  • QE Specialist Centre,
    35 Woodville Road
    Woodville South,
    SA 5011
  • Tel: 8244 4105
  • Mobile: 0439 080 899
  • Fax: 8243 2766