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(image courtesy of NCI)
What is Enteral Stenting?
Enteral stenting is the process of placing a stent within the gastrointestinal tract, using an endoscope which is generally inserted through the mouth or anus depending on where the problem lies. A stent is an expandable mesh or wire tube, made from either metal or plastic, which is inserted into the body through an endoscope under x-ray guidance. This procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis depending on individual circumstances.
When is a stent used?
Usually, this procedure is performed to relieve obstructions within the digestive tract which cause symptoms of nausea, vomiting, difficulty passing stools, abdominal bloating or discomfort. These obstructions are usually due to cancers of the stomach, small intestine, bile duct, pancreas, and colon. In rare circumstances, the obstruction may be due to extensive cancer outside the gastrointestinal tract, such as in ovarian cancer. In these cases, the stent is placed across the narrowed segment of the obstruction. Once placed, the stent expands to allow passage of intestinal contents, thereby relieving the symptoms associated with the obstruction.
In some cases, enteral stenting may help avoid surgery; in these cases, enteral stenting offers a minimally invasive alternative to surgery. In other situations, enteral stenting may help delay the need for surgery, thereby allowing you to have a surgery in a more elective setting, which is safer compared with an emergency setting. This also allows your surgeon more time to plan your surgery, and in some cases avoid the need for an ostomy bag.
Another reason you may have a stent placed is to help heal, or close, a fistula. A fistula is an abnormal connection between the gastrointestinal tract and another organ system such as the skin, lung, or even another segment of intestine. In these cases, a stent is usually placed across the hole, or defect, to help bypass intestinal contents across the area, thereby, allowing the hole or defect to gradually seal closed over time. Once the fistula heals, the stent can be removed endoscopically at a later time.
Thus, enteral stenting is a minimally invasive procedure that can be utilized to treat gastrointestinal obstructions and fistulas. This can lead to improvement in patient’s well-being and overall quality of life.
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