Enteral stenting is a relatively new endoscopic technology that involves placement of expandable metal mess stents across cancerous strictures (or narrowings) of the gastrointestinal tract.
A stent is a small hollow tube with open ends and a length usually between two and eight inches. Its wall consists of a metal wire mesh. Metal stents are designed with an initial narrow diameter such that will allow them insertion into a narrow stricture through the channel of an endoscope. Once they are deployed within the required narrow stricture, they automatically expand to their full diameter, thus stretching the stricture open and establishing patency of the gastrointestinal lumen.
Expandable metal stents are used to treat esophageal, duodenal, bile duct and colon strictures caused by cancer. Their role is to improve symptoms and the patients' quality of life. However, they cannot cure the disease. This type of treatment (palliative therapy) is offered to patients who are not good candidates for curative surgical therapy either because of very advanced cancer or because of other medical problems that cause an excessively elevated risk of surgery. Occasionally these stents are placed across a narrowing caused by a potentially curable colon cancer so as to avoid the need for a colostomy at the time of surgery.
There is a very low rate of complications following placement of expandable metal stents. The most common adverse events include gastrointestinal bleeding or perforation (tear in the wall of intestine) and migration of the stent away from its deployment position.