Using a stent to treat a blocked bile duct
Sometimes the cancer will grow in a way that it blocks the bile duct. This blockage can lead to yellowing of the whites of the eyes and the skin (called jaundice). Read more about jaundice here.
A billary stent is a flexible tube made of either plastic or an expanding metal mesh which helps to 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. Plastic stents can be replaced when they get blocked.
There has been a move recently to use metal stents to relieve jaundice before surgery as they are wider in diameter and allow better drainage of bile from the liver. Partially covered metal stents are also now available and can be removed at surgery. In patients undergoing chemotherapy, metal stents are often used as they are better at draining the bile, which prevents interruptions to the chemotherapy treatment.
The stent is usually inserted during an ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography) or less often, a PTC (percutaneous transhepatic choloangiogram). For more information about these methods of stent insertion click on the links above.
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Information Product No. PCA0013v1 | Published: 03/01/2014 | Last Updated: 02/08/2017 | Next Review Due: 03/01/2017