Using a stent to treat a blocked bile duct
Sometimes the cancer will grow so it blocks the bile duct and this is when jaundice can occur.
A biliary stent is a flexible tube made of either plastic or an expanding metal mesh which helps keep the bile duct open.
Plastic stents are often used to relieve the jaundice before surgery to remove the tumour and it is usually taken out during that operation to resect the cancer. Plastic stents can be replaced when they get blocked (after about 4 months).
Metal stents are usually wider than plastic stents and tend not to get as blocked as plastic ones. However, as they are more difficult to remove, they are not usually used before resective surgery. Metal stents are favoured for people about to undergo chemotherapy treatment because they are less likely to block and cause complications.
During an ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography) or PTC (percutaneous transhepatic choloangiogram) the stent is pushed through the inside of the blocked duct to hold it open. The ERCP method is most often used.
To find out more about ERCP or PTC methods of stent insertion, please click on the above links.