An esophageal stent is a stent (tube) placed in the esophagus to keep a blocked area open so the patient can swallow soft food and liquids. Esophageal stents may be self-expandable metallic stents, or made of plastic, or silicone, and may be used in the treatment of esophageal cancer.
A 2007 study showed no difference in the quality of palliation between plastic and metal stents, but a novel polyester mesh stent caused more complications, especially migration.
As of 2009, covered self-expanding metal stents were the only FDA-approved to be placed permanently. Occasionally, these stents may be placed as part of a clinical trial or as off-label use to repair esophageal leaks or fistulae. They are placed using the guidance of fluoroscopy (x-ray) and endoscopy. Usually, they are left in for less than four weeks.