The urinary system is made up of the kidneys, the two tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder — the ureters — and the bladder.
Ureteral obstruction occurs when a ureter becomes blocked. The blockage may be a condition present since birth or may be due to scarring from kidney stones or prior surgeries. Less frequently, scarring may be from cancer or the treatment of cancer (such as radiation), kidney stones, prior surgeries, or some condition present from birth.
When a ureter is blocked, urine doesn't drain properly from the kidney to the bladder and may even backflow into a kidney, causing infection or long-term damage.
Surgery to address a blocked ureter can restore normal function in the urinary system. Today these procedures are often done with minimally invasive techniques that use a tiny camera and tiny instruments inserted through small incisions in the belly.
These procedures include:
- Pyeloplasty, in which the blockage is located and cut away or divided with a laser
- Ureteral reimplantation, in which the obstructed part of the ureter is cut away and the ureter is then sewn back together
In either surgery, the surgeon may also place a stent — a small rigid tube — to help hold the ureter open — that is then removed in a later procedure when the ureter has healed.