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Esophageal Stent Placement

This information explains your esophageal stent placement and home care instructions.

Your esophagus is the tube that carries food and drink from your mouth to your stomach. Cancer of the esophagus can make it hard to swallow food and saliva. This is called dysphagia. An esophageal stent is a hollow tube that can be placed in the area of the tumor. It makes it easier to swallow. The stent expands the part of the esophagus narrowed by a tumor. The insertion of a stent will not affect your ability to receive cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Esophageal stents are usually easy to place. They are inserted through the mouth without the need for surgery. Most patients return home on the same day. It is possible that your doctor could decide that you should be admitted to the hospital for close observation.

Do not have anything to eat after midnight on the night before the procedure.

The Procedure

  • An intravenous (IV) needle will be inserted into a vein. You will get fluid through your IV. You will also get medication through the IV to help reduce any discomfort and make you sleepy.
  • You will lie on your back or left side during the procedure.
  • A mouth guard will be placed over your teeth to protect them. If you wear dentures, they will be removed right before the procedure.
  • Your doctor will first examine the area that is blocked. This will be done with an endoscope. It is a flexible tube that goes through you mouth and esophagus.
  • Your doctor may use fluoroscopy, a type of x-ray to examine your esophagus.
  • Your doctor may need to to dilate your esophagus before the stent is placed. This can be done with special balloons or soft, flexible, rubber tubes.
  • Your doctor will insert and position the stent with the help of fluoroscopy.

After Your Procedure

  • You will be taken to the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). A nurse will check your pulse, breathing, and blood pressure often. 
  • You will remain in the PACU until you are fully awake. You will then be given a beverage. Do not eat solid food until the day after your procedure.
  • Some patients may feel mild to moderate discomfort in the chest. This is typically described as a feeling of pressure or soreness. These symptoms are usually relieved with mild pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Your doctor may prescribe other pain medication. In some patients, the pain is severe. It requires a short stay in the hospital for pain relief.
  • You may also experience a sore throat for up to 24 hours. This discomfort can be relieved with lozenges and cool liquids.
  • Your nurse will give you discharge instructions before you go home.
  • Your doctor will speak with you before you are discharged.

Home Care Instructions

  • You may resume your normal activities in 24 hours.
  • On the day of your stent placement, take liquids by mouth. You can also have soup, oatmeal, or cream of wheat, but do not eat solids. You can begin to eat soft foods the following day. On the third day, you can eat solid food.
  • Do not drink alcohol for 24 hours.
  • When you resume your normal diet, eat small pieces of food and always chew them well before swallowing.
  • Taking fluids often throughout your meals will help food pass through the stent. Carbonated beverages such as cola or ginger ale also help food pass through.
  • Always eat in an upright position. Gravity will help food pass through your esophagus and stent.
  • Remain in a sitting position at least 2 hours after each meal. This will help prevent the reflux of food, a burning, or full feeling pushing up from your stomach.
  • Sleep with a wedge to elevate the head of your bed 30 degrees or more. This decreases the chance of reflux.
  • You can swallow pills or capsules whole. Drink at least 4 ounces of water after swallowing them.

Call Your Doctor or Nurse if You Have:

  • Chest pain does not get better with acetaminophen or the medication your doctor prescribed
  • Difficulty or pain while swallowing that persists more than 1 day
  • Abdominal pain, bloating, or hardness
  • Back or shoulder pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Black or dark stools
  • Weakness, faintness, or nausea
  • Chills or a fever of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher
  • Vomiting of food or blood
  • Any problem you did not expect
  • Any questions or concerns