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, made of mesh, metal, or plastic, that are inserted into the esophagus.
An endoscope, is used to thread an expandable stent to the esophagus. This instrument allows us to view your throat. Once in place, it is released, pushing the esophageal walls open. Placing a stent is less invasive than surgery, and allows for quick administration of nutrients/food. It is also easily reversible and provides a good palliative option for patients who are in discomfort. Stents can also be used to treat obstructions in other types of cancer (such as lung cancer).
Once the anesthesiologist has 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 is often an outpatient procedure; usually you will spend some time in the recovery room until you wake up fully. By the following day you should be able to return to normal activities.