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Ureteral Reimplantation Surgery

The ureters are the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The connection where one or both of your child’s ureters attach to the bladder isn’t completely developed. This can cause urine to flow from the bladder back up into the kidney. This is called vesicoureteral reflux (VUR). VUR doesn’t cause pain. But it can increase your child’s risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Over time, it can also damage your child’s kidneys. With ureteral reimplantation surgery, one or both ureters are moved so their connection to the bladder is stronger. This sheet explains the surgery.

Front view of kidneys, ureters, and bladder. One ureter has been moved to new position on bladder.

Preparing for Surgery

Prepare your child for the surgery as told. In addition:

  • Tell the doctor about any medications your child takes. Your child may need to stop taking some or all of them before surgery.

  • Your child must not eat or drink anything for several hours before surgery. This includes water, gum, and mints. You’ll be told how far in advance of surgery to withhold food and liquids, based on your child’s age and weight. Make sure to follow the instructions you’re given. Call the doctor if you have any questions.

The Day of Surgery

The surgery takes about 2-3 hours. Your child will stay in the hospital for 1-2 days afterward.

Before the surgery begins:

  • An IV line is placed in a vein in your child’s arm or hand. This line supplies fluids and medications (such as antibiotics).

  • To keep your child from feeling pain during the surgery, general anesthesia is given. This medication puts your child in a state like deep sleep through the surgery. A tube may be inserted into your child’s throat to help with breathing. 

  • A thin tube (catheter) may be placed into your child’s bladder to drain urine. 

During the surgery:

  • An incision is made in your child’s lower abdomen (belly), just above the pubic bone. The end of the ureter and some muscle near it are detached from the bladder.

  • The doctor will decide where in the bladder to reimplant the ureter. A tunnel is then created for the ureter to be placed inside.

  • The ureter is moved to the new site in the bladder and inserted into the tunnel.

  • Once the ureter is in place, it is secured with stitches (sutures).

  • If the other ureter is also being treated, it is done so at this time.

  • The bladder is stitched closed.

  • The skin incision made in the abdomen is closed with stitches or surgical tape.

  • A small tube (drain) is placed near the incision. This drain removes fluid that can build up after the surgery.

Recovering in the Hospital

After the surgery, your child will be taken to a recovery room to rest until the anesthesia wears off. At first, he or she may feel sleepy, nauseated, and have a sore throat (if a breathing tube was used). If needed, medication will be given to manage pain. When your child is ready, he or she will be moved to a hospital room. The catheter will be removed before your child leaves the hospital. The drain may also be removed. If the child is sent home with the drain, you will be shown how to care for it at home.

Recovering at Home

Follow the doctor’s instructions for how to care for your child at home. Be sure to:

  • Give your child medication as directed.

  • Care for your child’s incision and drain as instructed.

  • Follow the doctor’s guidelines for bathing your child.

  • Don’t allow your child to be active until the doctor says it’s okay.

  • Ask the doctor when your child can return to daycare or school.

Call the Doctor If Your Child Has Any of the Following:

  • Chest pain or trouble breathing (call 911)

  • Fever of 100.4°F or higher

  • Symptoms of infection at an incision site such as increased redness or swelling, warmth, worsening pain, or foul-smelling drainage

  • Problems with the drain

  • Severe vomiting

  • Dark blood or clots in the urine (some pink-tinged urine is normal)

  • Inability to urinate

  • Inconsolable crying and/or refusal to feed (infants)

Follow-Up

At follow-up visits, the doctor will check how well your child is healing. If needed, your child’s stitches and drain will be removed in about 7 days. Tests, such as an ultrasound of the kidneys, may be done 1-3 months after the procedure. These allow the doctor to check that your child’s urinary tract is working properly.

Risks and Possible Complications Include:

  • Bleeding (may require a blood transfusion)

  • Infection

  • Pain

  • Urine leakage from the ureters

  • Stricture of ureters returns

  • Damage to the bladder, bowels, or other organs

  • Kidney damage

  • Risks of anesthesia (the anesthesiologist will discuss these with you)

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Akin, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith, RN, MSN, FNP, CCRC
Date Last Reviewed: 5/16/2012
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.