The Center for Thoracic Oncology at Boston Medical Center is here to serve you and your family, to provide you with the most advanced and effective medical treatment in New England, as well as unmatched patient care. Our staff of compassionate diagnosticians, surgeons, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and surgical nurses will work together as a team to treat your esophageal cancer and lead you on the path to recovery in the most comfortable way possible. You will be treated in our state-of-the-art facilities using a multidisciplinary approach.
One of the procedures we offer is the placement of esophageal stents (e-stents). Sometimes esophageal cancer blocks the airway or presses on it and makes breathing difficult. Stent placement is one way to improve breathing and swallowing ability, and to ease pain and discomfort. Stents are small tubes—usually made of mesh, metal, or plastic—that are inserted into the esophagus. Metal stents tend to be more effective and bring fewer complications than plastic stents in esophageal cancer patients.
Typically, an endoscope, an instrument that allows us to view your throat area, is used to thread an expandable stent to the esophagus. Once in place, it is released, pushing the esophageal walls open. Placing a stent is less invasive than surgery, allows for quick administration of nutrients/food, and is reversible, providing a good palliative option. Stents can also be used to treat obstructions in other types of cancer (such as lung cancer), as well as in arteries to facilitate blood flow.
How to Prepare
Preparation is rarely extensive, but it is important to follow your physician's orders prior to your procedure. Stent placement can be done using local or general anesthesia, depending on your situation; general anesthesia may require you to avoid food and drink after midnight on the day before your procedure. Please also arrange for someone to drive you home.
What to Expect
You will be monitored carefully throughout this procedure. Once the anesthesiologist has numbed your throat area or put you to sleep, your surgeon will insert the endoscope through your nose or mouth, or through a surgical incision. A folded-up stent is advanced to the esophagus and released. It expands automatically against the walls of the esophagus, thereby providing support. Once it is in place, the endoscope is removed.
Stent placement requires minimal recovery and is often an outpatient procedure; usually you will spend some time in the recovery room until you wake up fully. Spend the remainder of the day resting, and by the following day you should be able to return to normal activities.
If you notice any of these signs of infection or other symptoms that concern you, please call your doctor.