Sometimes esophageal cancer blocks the airway or presses on it and makes breathing difficult. Stent placement is one way to improve breathing and swallowing and to ease pain and discomfort. Stents are small tubes - usually made of mesh, metal or plastic - that are inserted into the esophagus. For esophageal cancer patients, metal stents tend to be more effective and lead to fewer complications than plastic stents. Typically, an endoscope, an instrument that allows us to view your throat, is used to thread an expandable stent into 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 to facilitate blood flow in arteries.

How to Prepare for E-Stents

Preparation is rarely extensive, but it is important to follow physician orders prior to the procedure. Stent placement can be done using local or general anesthesia, depending on the patient; general anesthesia may require avoiding food and drink after midnight on the day before the procedure. Patients should also arrange for someone to drive them home.

What to Expect During an E-Stent Procedure

The patient will be monitored carefully throughout this procedure. Once the anesthesiologist has numbed the throat area or sedated the patient, the surgeon will insert the endoscope through the patient’s nose or mouth, or through an incision. A folded-up stent is advanced to the esophagus and released. It expands automatically against the walls of the esophagus, providing support. Once it is in place, the endoscope is removed.

Recovery from an E-Stent Procedure

Stent placement requires minimal recovery and is often an outpatient procedure. Usually the patient spends some time in the recovery room until they awaken fully, and should spend the remainder of the day resting, and by the following day should be able to return to normal activities.

Patients should call their doctor at any of these signs of infection or other concerning symptoms:

  • High temperature
  • Shivering
  • Redness or swelling at incision site