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.
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 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.
There are two ways your doctor can place a bile duct stent: ERCP and PTC.
ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography)
In an ERCP, the doctor will use a tool called an endoscope, or scope. It is a thin, lighted tube that bends. It has a camera on it that lets the doctor use pictures on a screen to guide it. The doctor uses the scope to put a metal or plastic tube in the bile duct. This can help open the duct.
Before the test, you may get medicine to numb the back of your throat. You also will get medicine to help you relax.
During the test, you will lie on your left side or on your stomach. The doctor puts the scope in your mouth and then gently moves it toward the back of your throat. The doctor will tell you when to swallow. This helps the scope move down your throat. You will be able to breathe normally.
Then the doctor moves the scope through the tube (esophagus) that leads to your stomach, through your stomach, and into the first part of your small intestine. When the scope reaches the place where the bile ducts and the pancreas meet the small intestine, you may be asked to turn and lie on your stomach. The doctor then guides the stent into place.
PTC (percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography)
In a PTC, the doctor moves a long needle through your belly and into the liver. The needle is used to inject dye into the liver. X-rays are taken while the dye moves through the bile ducts. The doctor will take that needle out and insert a special hollow needle into the bile duct. The doctor will then move the stent through this needle and place it in the bile duct.
You will get medicine to numb your skin and keep you comfortable during the test. During the test, you will lie on your back. At some point you may be asked to roll to your side.
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.
Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.
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Current as of: March 27, 2018
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kenneth Bark, MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery
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