Stenting of Bile Duct/Oesophagus/GI Tract

Stenting is the process of inserting special tube-shaped devices into canals in the body to open up narrowed or blocked passages for bodily fluids and food content to move through smoothly, or to hold open the channels for surgery to be performed effectively. Stenting can be done in various organs in the body, including the oesophagus, the colon and certain blood vessels in the heart.

The devices, called stents, are made of artificial materials suitable to be placed inside the body, and they rarely cause serious health complications for the patient.

Stenting in the Gastrointestinal Tract (GI)

Doctors of the GI tract may have to stent to open up the bile ducts, oesophagus, small bowel and colon if there is any blockage occurring in the area. The stents are placed to improve the natural digestion process along the GI tract. Stents can be either permanent or temporary. There are four main types of stents used by GI doctors:

Bile duct stents –these stents are placed into the bile duct, which is a tube connecting the liver and pancreas to the small bowel, to allow normal drainage from the pancreas, gallbladder and liver into the small bowel. The stents can either be plastic, which are temporary and need replacement after some time, or, metal stents that are permanent.

Oesophageal stents: these stents are placed in the oesophagus to open it up and help in swallowing. They are inserted using an endoscope through a patient’s mouth and throat with assistance of x-ray imaging. Oesophageal stents are usually made of metal which can expand and contract with the muscles of the oesophagus for easy swallowing. However, doctors may need to place inflexible plastic stents in the oesophagus in order to constrict tumours in oesophageal cancer patients.

Duodenal Stents: stents put in the small intestine to help intestinal content flow smoothly through a patient’s small bowel when that area is blocked by tumours. The procedure to insert this stent can be more invasive than oesophageal stent, yet it is still a preferred option to surgery in controlling small bowel obstructions.

Colonic Stent: stents placed in the colon to open up narrowing that is causing difficulty in digesting and passing motion. This stent may help to prevent future obstruction of the GI tract as well as relieve existing symptoms of bowel obstruction. These stents are minimally invasive and are placed endoscopically.