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Stomach stent

Find out how you have a stent put into your stomach and how you’ll feel after.

A stent is a small metal or plastic tube put into the stomach to relieve a blockage.

You might have one if your cancer is blocking the entrance or exit to your stomach.

Cancer in the stomach can partly or completely block it and make it difficult to swallow.

A doctor can put a stent into the blocked area opens up the passage again, this allows you to swallow food and drink more easily. You have the stent fitted in hospital in the endoscopy department or x-ray department. It usually takes about 30 minutes.

Before your treatment

Your doctor or specialist nurse explains what happens and how they fit the stent. They ask you to sign a form saying that you agree to have the procedure. You can ask them any questions that you have. Tell them about any medicines you are taking.

You shouldn’t eat or drink for at least 6 hours beforehand.

A nurse puts a small tube called a cannula into a vein in the back of your hand. They go with you to the endoscopy or x-ray department.

You have a medicine to make you sleepy injected into the tube in your hand. Or you might have a general anaesthetic.

There are 2 ways of fitting the stent. Your doctor can use a:
  • long, flexible tube called an endoscope put down your throat
  • thin wire to fit the tube during an x-ray

Stent using x-ray

Your doctor passes a fine wire down into your food pipe until it reaches the blockage. You then have an x-ray so the doctor can see the blocked area on a screen. They pass the stent down the wire until it is in the right place.

Diagram showing a stomach stent

You stay in the endoscopy department or x-ray department until the sedation or anaesthetic wears off. You wear an oxygen mask for a short time. A nurse then takes you back to your ward. You need to stay in hospital overnight or for a few days.

The stent expands over a couple of days. This opens up the food pipe so food and drink can pass through again.

Eating and drinking with a stent

You can’t eat or drink for the first 2 to 4 hours after having the stent. Your nurse tells you when you can start drinking. Then you can build up to eating soft foods.

You need to have a soft diet because solid food won’t pass through the stent. Your dietitian tells you which foods you can eat.

Tips

  • Take your time when eating and sit upright.
  • Chew food well and remove any lumps or gristle.
  • If you have dentures, wear them to make chewing easier.
  • Sip nourishing fluids while eating to help food pass down through the stent.
  • Avoid tough lumps of meat, white bread and stringy fruits and vegetables.

Side effects

You might feel some soreness as the stent expands. Taking painkillers for a few days helps.

After a few days, the soreness usually goes away but you might still have some soreness at times. 

Tell your nurse or doctor if you still have pain.

Let your nurse or doctor know if you feel sick. They can give you medicines to reduce sickness.

Tell your nurse or doctor if you have heartburn or acid reflux. They can give you anti acid medicine.

Sleeping upright in bed helps to prevent heartburn. You can use pillows or cushions to support yourself.

You might have some slight bleeding in the stomach. It might give you a metallic taste in your mouth. This usually gets better over a few days.

Your nurse will give you mouthwashes. Tell your nurse if you cough up blood.
 

Damage to the food pipe or stomach can tear it or make a hole (perforation). This is very rare. You might need to have surgery to mend the hole if this happens.

In the first 3 days after having treatment, tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you:

  • have difficulty breathing
  • get severe chest pain
  • vomit blood
  • can’t keep food or drinks down

If food blocks the stent
Your swallowing might change or eating and drinking gets difficult or uncomfortable. Or you may find that you suddenly can’t swallow.

If this happens:

  • try not to panic
  • drink plenty of fizzy or warm drinks to try and clear the blockage
  • walk around as this sometimes helps

Call your doctor or nurse for advice if you still can't swallow.

After a time, the stent might move and food may not be able to pass through. If this happens you won’t be able to swallow and food or drink will come back up. Your doctor will remove or replace the stent.

At home with a stent

You have support from community nurses or your local symptom control team. You also have regular appointments at the hospital to check the stent.

The hospital or your GP give you any medicines that you need.

Other treatments

Your doctor may also offer you chemotherapy to help shrink the cancer and relieve symptoms.

You might also have a drug called trastuzumab (Herceptin) with chemotherapy. You only have this if your cancer has a large amount of a protein called HER2. This is a type of biological therapy that targets cancer cells.

Last reviewed: 
05 Jul 2016
  • Guidelines for the management of oesophageal and gastric cancer
    British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG), 2011

  • Management of oesophageal and gastric cancer. A national clinical guideline
    Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, 2006

  • Stomach cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
    M Stahl, C Mariette, K Haustermans and others
    Annals of Oncology. 2013,  24 (supplement 6)

  • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2004

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (9th Edition)
    L Dougherty, S Lister (Editors), 2011

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