What are Stents?

In medicine, stents are special tubular devices inserted into channels in the body—such as the esophagus, the colon and certain blood vessels in the heart—to open up passage for bodily fluids and food content or to hold open the channels during surgery. Stents are made of artificial materials engineered for in-body stent placement and only rarely cause serious health complications for the patient, though as with any foreign body without your body there is always a small risk of infection or blood clot associated with these. Stents also have a chance of migrating or slipping out of their positioned place, if this happens they are normally easily revised and replaced.  They can be used when a natural passage in a patient’s body has narrowed as a result of scarring or has become obstructed by tumors such as cancer in its advanced stages, among other circumstances.  While stents are often used to open channels inside the heart in patients with coronary heart disease or patients that have recently suffered heart attack, they are also used by gastroenterologists (GI doctors) for cancer treatment. Talk to your medical doctor if you think you may need a stent procedure to improve daily body function.

Why Would a GI Doctor Use Stents?

Within the field of gastroenterology, a GI doctor uses stents primarily to open up the bile ducts, esophagus, small bowel and colon when those body parts have become blocked by large, cancerous tissue. The stent placement procedure is meant to repair a person’s natural ability to digest food and drink anywhere along the GI tract (gastrointestinal tract), from the mouth to the anus, especially when cancer patients are having trouble swallowing, passing stool or otherwise digesting during their cancer treatment. Stents can be installed either permanently or temporarily. There are four  main types of stents used by GI doctors:


Reviewed 12/29/2011 by David M. Nolan, M.D.
Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, 2011
Currently a Fellow of Gastroenterology, at UCI 2011-2014