Patients undergoing esophageal stent placement can expect an improvement in esophageal obstruction symptoms right away. The recovery period after the insertion of an esophageal stent will differ depending on the reason for the stent, but it should be relatively easy and painless if the insertion of the stent is the only procedure required. In general, patients will need to modify their diets to accommodate the stent and will need to watch for signs of complications such as stent movement or infection.
An esophageal stent is a metal or plastic tube inserted into the esophagus through the mouth; it is intended to remain in place over time and hold the esophagus open. A placement procedure is done when there is some kind of obstruction or tightness in the esophagus that prevents the patient from swallowing normally. Dysphagia is the general term used to refer to swallowing problems, and it can be caused by conditions as diverse as a tumor, stroke, a degenerative brain disease, muscular dystrophy, infection, and many other diseases and conditions. Stents commonly are inserted as part of the treatment of esophageal cancer, but they are also frequently used for other conditions that cause obstruction or tightness of the esophagus.
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Patients may be allowed to go home shortly after an esophageal stent procedure, or they may be required to stay in the hospital for a couple of days for monitoring. A hospital stay is particularly likely if other procedures, such as removal of an esophageal tumor, were done at the same time as stent placement. Some patients may have other indications that make complications more likely, and they also are likely to need to stay longer in the hospital. The doctor performing the procedure will be able to answer questions about the length of the hospital stay for a particular patient.
Patients with an esophageal stent will need to modify their diets so food is easier to swallow. Foods need to be moist and soft, and well-chewed with no sharp or bulky pieces that may get stuck in the stent and obstruct the esophagus. Patients will also need to sit upright while eating and remain in an upright position for a while after eating to ensure that food goes through the stent and the esophagus smoothly. A qualified doctor or nutritionist can provide a list of foods that are appropriate and inappropriate, and can also give patients meal ideas to help during the adjustment period.
As with any medical procedure, some complications may arise related to the anesthesia used when inserting the esophageal stent, the procedure itself, or the healing period. Patients need to be aware and notify their doctors immediately if they have concerns. There may be some discomfort or feelings of tightness, but patients should not experience pain after esophageal stent placement. If patients do experience pain, this may be a sign of stent movement or misplacement that can result in injury or infection. Pain or feeling like the stent has moved is an indication that the patient should consult with a doctor.