Ureteral Surgery | In-Depth

At Boston Children's Hospital, we understand that you may have questions about ureteral surgery, such as:

  • What is it?
  • What is the recovery process like?
  • How effective is the surgery?

We’ve provided some answers to these questions below, and when you meet with our experts, we can talk with you more about your child’s specific situation.

What is ureteral surgery?

Ureteral surgery is performed to correct problems that cause urine to get backed up in the ureter and sometimes flow backward, which can permanently damage your child’s kidneys.

Who needs ureteral surgery?

Ureteral surgery is a treatment option for children who have abnormalities of their ureter and/or urinary tract, such as a blockage in the ureter or vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), a condition that causes urine to flow backward into the kidney.

How common is this type of surgery?

While VUR affects approximately 1 out of 100 babies and ureteral blockages occur in about 1 out of every 1,500 babies, not all of these children will need surgery. At Boston Children’s, we take a conservative approach, monitoring the function of your child’s urinary tract and kidney before deciding whether to perform surgery.

At what age is ureteral surgery performed?

It depends. If your baby has a large blockage in her ureter or severe VUR that affects her kidney function, your doctor may recommend surgery now. If his or her condition is less serious, your doctor will most likely choose to observe your child for a while before deciding whether to perform surgery.

Are there different types of ureteral surgery?

When surgery is required we can perform either a traditional open or a robotically assisted minimally invasive procedure. Your doctor will discuss with you which option is more suitable for your child’s unique situation.

What is the long-term outlook for my child?

Every child is unique, and your child’s long-term health depends upon her exact condition. But the bottom line is that with an accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment and conscientious management, your child should go on to achieve normal urinary function.

Questions to ask your doctor

You and your family are key players in your medical care. It’s important that you share your observations and ideas with your treatment team and that you understand your provider’s recommendations.

If you are scheduled for ureteral surgery and you’ve set up an appointment, you probably already have some ideas and questions on your mind. But at the appointment, it can be easy to forget the questions you wanted to ask. It’s often helpful to jot them down ahead of time so that you can leave the appointment feeling like you have the information you need.

Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • How did you reach the decision that my child should have surgery at this time?
  • When should we have the surgery performed?
  • Is there anything we need to do to prepare for surgery?
  • Is it safe to use general anesthesia in children?
  • What will the recovery period be like?