What is a Gastrointestinal Stent?

What is a Gastrointestinal Stent?

Esophageal, Colonic, and Enteric Stenting

A gastrointestinal stent is an expandable, tubular support that is placed inside a segment of a gastrointestinal organ like the esophagus, colon, or intestine. It is used for treatment and palliation of an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract due to various diseases.

A stent is generally small (about the size of a pen), but it gently expands once it is placed inside the affected gastrointestinal organ. Stent placement will facilitate the creation of a channel or a passageway through the blockage and will allow the organ to function normally.

What are the Different Types of Gastrointestinal Stents?

Gastrointestinal stents can be classified as follows:

  • Esophageal Stent – an esophageal stent is usually placed through an obstructed area of your food tube (medically termed as the esophagus). This will allow food and drinks to pass through from the mouth to the stomach and intestines for digestion and absorption of vitamins and nutrients.

It is commonly recommended to individuals with inoperable malignancies of the esophagus such as tumors.

  • Colonic Stent – a colonic stent is used to keep a part of the large bowel open from obstruction such as a tumor or a narrowing which is also called a stricture.
  • Enteric Stent – an enteric stent can be inserted in the gastrointestinal tract if you have a tumor or any growth that causes an obstruction in the esophagus, stomach, small intestine or large intestine.

Why Undergo Gastrointestinal Stenting?

A gastrointestinal stent can be suggested by your doctor or surgeon when there is either a complete or partial blockage in your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, or large intestine. The goal for stenting is to remove the obstruction and reduce the pressure that it causes.

Stents are also recommended for individuals who cannot undergo surgery and needs an alternative to keep the gastrointestinal organ working.

What are the Risks Associated with Gastrointestinal Stenting?

Majority of patients who had gastrointestinal stenting (either esophageal, colonic, or enteric) did not have any complications from the procedure. However, you should also be aware of its risks before having the procedure.

The possible risks associated with esophageal, colonic, or enteric stenting may include any of the following:

  • Bleeding – it is expected to have a minimal amount of bleeding which may be caused by the stent rubbing the lining of the gastrointestinal tract or a tumor
  • Infection – any procedure involving the introduction or insertion of a foreign material inside the body may increase the chance of getting an infection
  • Pain – you may experience pain in the abdomen as the gastrointestinal tract returns to normal after insertion of the stent
  • Perforation – a perforation is a hole that can cause a leak of the contents of any of the gastrointestinal organs into the abdominal cavity. It rarely occurs, but it is a severe complication that requires surgery
  • Failure to insert – a stent may not be inserted if a tumor is too large. Sometimes, the position of the tumor may also make it impossible to place a stent on the affected area
  • Stent migration a stent may become loose and dislodged causing pain or recurrence of signs and symptoms that existed before the procedure
  • Re-obstruction – the stent may cause further obstruction if the tumor grows through it

How is a Gastrointestinal Stent Inserted?

Gastrointestinal stenting usually takes approximately 25 minutes to 1 hour depending on how accessible the blockage or obstruction is.

  • Before the procedure, you may be given an enema – a liquid laxative which will be introduced into your bottom to clean the bowel.
  • An oxygen will also be given through your nose.
  • Then, you will be given a sedative to make you feel relaxed during the procedure.
  • An endoscope will be used to allow your doctor to see the insides of your gastrointestinal tract.
  • The gastrointestinal stent is then delivered through the endoscope to the site of the obstruction
  • Once the stent is in correct position, your doctor will allow the stent to slowly expand in place
  • The endoscope is then withdrawn.

For the first 24 hours after the procedure, you may feel sore in your throat area or behind your breastbone. It may heal by itself and may also be relieved by a mild pain medication that will be prescribed by your doctor.

You may need to stay in the hospital overnight for the healthcare staff to monitor you for any complications.

Majority of patients who had stent insertion say they feel more comfortable after one to two days post-procedure.

What Happens After a Gastrointestinal Stent Insertion?

You will be monitored and cared for at the recovery room after your gastrointestinal stenting. The healthcare staff will check your vital signs and ensure that you are comfortable before you get transferred to your room. If you feel well after 4 hours, your doctor may allow you to drink clear fluids. However, eating any food for the first 24 hours after the procedure is not recommended. You may be placed on a modified, pureed, low-residue diet a day after the procedure to prevent blocking in the stent. Your diet will be explained further by your doctor.

Esophageal, Colonic, and Enteric Stenting at Pine Creek Medical Center

This article is an overview of the procedure called gastrointestinal stenting (esophageal, colonic, enteric). It explains some of the basic indications, risks, and advantages of the procedure. However, it is not meant to replace an informed discussion between you and a trained doctor specializing in stenting like the ones that we have at Pine Creek Medical Center.

Whether you are already scheduled for a gastrointestinal stenting as planned, or just doing a research as a starting point of discussion about the procedure, we will be happy to book you an appointment and discuss further details about the procedure. Our highly-trained gastrointestinal specialists can answer any questions that you have with regards to gastrointestinal stenting.


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