Esophageal Stent Procedure
What is an esophageal stent procedure?
In an esophageal stent procedure, a tube is placed in your esophagus to keep open
a blocked area. The tube helps you swallow solids and liquids.
Your esophagus is the muscular tube connecting the back of your mouth to your stomach.
When you swallow, the muscles of your esophagus contract. They propel food into your
Many health problems can partly block a portion of your esophagus. That can make it
hard to swallow. The medical term for this is dysphagia. You might have pain when
you swallow or feel like food is getting stuck in your chest. The food might come
back up after you swallow. An esophageal stent can help reopen your blocked esophagus
and ease symptoms.
The procedure might take place under general anesthesia or conscious sedation. If
it takes place under general anesthesia, you will sleep through the procedure and
feel no pain. If it takes place under conscious sedation, you will get medicines to
make you relaxed and sleepy. The surgeon may numb the area under surgery so that you
won’t feel much pain.
During the procedure, the surgeon places a long, thin tube (catheter) down the back
of your mouth and into your esophagus. Next, the surgeon places a folded-up hollow
tube (stent) over the catheter in the correct position across the blockage. The stent
expands against the walls of your esophagus, giving support. Then the surgeon removes
the catheter and leaves the stent in place.
Why might I need an esophageal stent procedure?
You might need an esophageal stent for a number of health problems. Traditionally,
healthcare providers have most often used esophageal stents to treat esophageal cancer.
That is still the most common reason. But these stents are also used to treat:
Cancer of the top part of the stomach
Narrowing of the esophagus from an ulcer
Narrowing of the esophagus from radiation treatment
Abnormal opening between the trachea and esophagus
Hole in the esophagus
Any of these health problems can cause dysphagia. Dysphagia is serious because it
can lead to aspiration. During aspiration, you inhale food and stomach contents into
your lungs. That can lead to complications like pneumonia. Dysphagia also lowers your
quality of life. An esophageal stent can help ease these problems.
Even if you have esophageal cancer, you may not need an esophageal stent. In some
cases, your healthcare provider may be able to treat your cancer with surgery or chemotherapy
instead. If these therapies won’t work for you, an esophageal stent may be another
option. In other cases, a gastrostomy tube or jejunostomy tube might make more sense
for you. These tubes go straight from your outer abdomen to your stomach or small
intestine. Talk with your healthcare provider about all your treatment choices.
What are the risks of an esophageal stent procedure?
Esophageal stent procedures are relatively safe. But they do sometimes cause problems
later. These might include:
There is also a risk that you will need a repeat procedure because of one of these
complications. Your own risks may vary based on the nature of your esophageal problem,
your other health problems, and the type of stent used. Talk with your healthcare
provider about all your concerns.
How do I get ready for an esophageal stent procedure?
Talk with your healthcare provider about what you should do to get ready. You may
have to stop eating and drinking the night before your procedure. Follow your healthcare
provider’s instructions about what medicines to take or not take beforehand. Don’t
stop taking any medicine unless he or she tells you to do so. Plan to have someone
available to drive you home afterward.
Tell your healthcare provider about the following:
Any allergies or past problems with anesthesia
Any new health problems, like a recent fever
If you are pregnant or might be pregnant
Your healthcare provider might order some tests before your procedure. These might
include a barium swallow test. It can give more information about the anatomy of your
esophagus. Just before the procedure, you may receive an IV. It can deliver medicine
to you during the procedure.
What happens during an esophageal stent procedure?
Your healthcare provider can let you know what to expect. The details of your procedure
may differ somewhat. It will usually take around an hour. In general, you can expect
If you are having conscious sedation, medicine will be given through an IV to make
you feel sleepy and relaxed during the procedure. You may also have a numbing medicine
put on the back of your throat. You may not remember the procedure afterward.
If you are having general anesthesia, medicine will be given through an IV to make
you sleep deeply and painlessly.
During the procedure, your heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs will
be carefully watched. If needed, you might get extra oxygen. Your healthcare provider
may use continuous X-ray images to view the procedure. In other cases, he or she might
use a long, thin device with a small camera (endoscope).
The healthcare provider will slowly put a catheter through your mouth and into your
The provider will move the folded-up esophageal stent over the catheter to the blockage
site. The stent is often made of metal or plastic. It will then open up against the
wall of the esophagus.
After the procedure has been completed, the provider will remove the catheter from
your esophagus. The stent will stay in place.
What happens after an esophageal stent procedure?
Typically, esophageal stent placement is an outpatient procedure. You will stay for
a few hours afterward while your vital signs are watched. Make sure someone is there
to drive you home. You will need to take it easy for the rest of the day. In other
cases, you may need to stay at the hospital overnight.
You may have some discomfort after your procedure. But it usually doesn’t last longer
than a day or two. You can have over-the-counter pain medicines if you need them.
Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions about when you can eat
and drink again. He or she may also give you other specific instructions about your
recovery. Continue to follow up regularly. Let your healthcare provider know right
away about any new problems, like fever or acid (gastroesophageal) reflux. You might
need a new procedure because of a complication, such as food blockage of the stent
or stent movement.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
The name of the test or procedure
The reason you are having the test or procedure
What results to expect and what they mean
The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
What the possible side effects or complications are
When and where you are to have the test or procedure
Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
When and how will you get the results Who to call after the test or procedure if you
have questions or problems
How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure