Learning About Biliary Stent Placement

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What is biliary stent placement?

A biliary (say "BILL-ee-air-ee") stent, also known as a bile duct stent, is a thin, hollow tube that is placed in the bile duct. The stent holds the duct open after the duct has been blocked or partly blocked.

Why is it done?

Placing a stent in the bile duct helps the bile flow when the duct is damaged or blocked. This can happen during surgery or because of scar tissue or a tumour.

Fluids like bile need to flow through your bile duct into your intestine to help digestion. If the duct is blocked, these fluids can build up in the liver. This can cause symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes), belly pain, and nausea. Bile that isn't draining as it should can get infected.

Opening up the duct with a stent allows bile to drain and can help you feel better.

How is it done?

There are two ways your doctor can place a bile duct stent.

  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). This is the most common method. The doctor feeds a thin, lighted tube gently down your throat, through your stomach, and into the bile duct. The doctor moves the stent down the tube and into the bile duct. The tube has a camera on it. It lets the doctor see exactly where to place the stent.
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC). First the doctor moves a long needle through your belly and into the liver. The needle is used to inject dye into the liver. With the help of X-rays, the dye shows the doctor where the bile duct blockage is. Then a special hollow needle is inserted. The doctor moves the stent through this needle to place it in the bile duct.

What can you expect after stent placement?

You will be given instructions about recovering from your procedure. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

After an ERCP, you may have a sore throat for a day or two.

Most people feel better after stent placement. Some people need to have this procedure repeated because the stent gets clogged.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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