The Center for Minimally Invasive Esophageal Therapies at Boston Medical Center is here to serve you and your family, to provide you with the most advanced and effective medical treatment in New England—as well as unmatched patient care. Our staff of compassionate diagnosticians, surgeons, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and surgical nurses will work collaboratively to treat your esophageal cancer and lead you on the path to recovery in the most comfortable way possible. You will be treated in our state-of-the-art facilities with a multidisciplinary approach.
One of the procedures we offer is the placement of esophageal stents (e-stents). 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—usually made of mesh, metal or plastic—that are inserted into the esophagus. For esophageal cancer patients, metal stents tend to be more effective and lead to fewer complications than plastic stents.
Typically, an endoscope, an instrument that allows us to view your throat, is used to thread an expandable stent into the esophagus. Once in place, it is released, pushing the esophageal walls open. Placing a stent is less invasive than surgery, allows for quick administration of nutrients/food and is reversible, providing a good palliative option. Stents can also be used to treat obstructions in other types of cancer (such as lung cancer), as well as to facilitate blood flow in arteries.
How to Prepare
Preparation is rarely extensive, but it is important to follow your physician's orders before your procedure. Stent placement can be done using local or general anesthesia, depending on your situation; general anesthesia may require you to avoid food and drink after midnight on the day before your procedure. Finally, you should arrange for someone to drive you home following the procedure.
What to Expect
You will be monitored carefully throughout the procedure. Once the anesthesiologist has numbed your throat or 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, providing support. Once it is in place, the endoscope is removed.
Stent placement requires minimal recovery and is often an outpatient procedure; usually you will spend some time in the recovery room until you wake up fully. Spend the remainder of the day resting, and by the following day you should be able to return to normal activities.
If you notice any of these signs of infection or other symptoms that concern you, please call your doctor.