Duodenal stent

Using a duodenal stent to treat a blocked bile duct

At some stage, many pancreatic cancer patients find that their tumour begins to compress or restrict the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine, immediately after the stomach). This often occurs gradually and begins to cause discomfort after eating and nausea. Fluids may be easier to take then solids. The stomach gradually stretches so that you feel like vomiting slightly less and weight loss occurs as food cannot reach the small intestine for nutrients to be absorbed.

One way to treat this is the use of a billary stent. This is a flexible tube made of either plastic or an expanding metal mesh which helps to keep the bile duct open and allows food and fluid to pass through it. The stent can reduce the discomfort caused by a blocked duodenum, nausea and vomiting.

The procedure

The procedure takes place in an x-ray department or endoscopy suite and takes around 30 minutes.

Your medical team will advise you when to stop eating and drinking before the stent is inserted. You will be given sedation through a needle and once you are sleepy the doctor will pass the endoscope down your throat to your duodenum. A wire is then passed which guides the stent into the right place.

An diagram depicting treating jaundice with a biliary stent.

How will I feel afterwards?

You will be taken back to the ward once the sedation has begun to wear off and once you are eating and drinking without any problems you will be able to go home. This is often on the same day or after an overnight stay. It may be difficult to return to solid foods after the stent insertion. Some people have problems with solid foods getting stuck. Your dietitian should be able to advise you on soft foods and nutritional fluids.