What is an oesophageal stent?
An oesophageal stent is a flexible, mesh tube that is placed in the oesophagus to treat a blockage which has been caused by cancer or injury and to allow food and fluid to pass from your mouth to your stomach.
Stents are made of non-dissolvable material and come in different shapes and sizes. They are held in place by muscles in the wall of the oesophagus.
Why do I need a stent?
An oesophageal stent is a relatively safe and effective procedure that is used to:
- Improve symptoms associated with oesophageal cancer where surgery is not indicated
- Treat a narrowing (stricture) of the oesophagus
- Treat a leak following oesophageal or stomach surgery
The stent will help improve your swallowing and allow you to drink and eat better.
Stents can be permanent or temporary, depending on the indication.
How is the stent placed?
Oesophageal stents are usually placed in the operating room under the guidance of a gastroscope and with the use of X-ray. The stent is inserted into your oesophagus through the area of concern and then released which allows it to expand.
As the stent expands it opens up any narrowing allowing food and drink to pass in to the stomach. The correct positioning of the stent is confirmed using an X-ray. The procedure takes approximately half an hour.
Are there any risks involved?
The risk of an oesophageal stent is variable depending on the type of stent. Risks can include:
- Perforation (damage) to the oesophagus
- Migration (movement) of the stent
- Erosion of surrounding tissue – for permanent stents only
What happens following the stent placement?
You may experience some pain or discomfort for two to three days following the procedure while the stent completely expands. It is recommended to take pain relief until the discomfort subsides.
After the stent has been placed, you will be advised to take fluids only for 24 hours. You will then be able to manage a soft diet. The stent will not be as wide or as flexible as a normal oesophagus, therefore you will need to take care when you eat certain foods to avoid a blockage. More information about recommended eating guidelines after stent placement can be provided by our surgeons and our clinical dietician.