Are there any problems with stents?
Stents to treat symptoms of pancreatic cancer can cause some problems. There are ways to deal with these.
The main problem with stents is that they can get blocked. This is usually caused by the cancer growing through the stent, or a build-up of bile in a biliary stent. If this happens another stent can be put in to treat the blockage.
With a duodenal stent, solid food can block the stent and it may need to be replaced – often after three or four months. Your nurse or dietitian should tell you what foods you shouldn’t eat, to make sure the stent doesn’t get blocked.
There is a risk of infection with both types of stent. This is usually caused by the stent getting blocked.
Signs of infection include tummy pain, aching muscles, high temperature or shivering. If this happens go to your local accident and emergency (A&E) department. Antibiotics can treat the infection and the stent can be replaced.
Sometimes stents can move out of place. If this happens the stent is usually removed and a new one put in.
Signs that there may be a problem include tummy pain. The symptoms you had before the stent was put in may also come back. Speak to your doctor or nurse if you get any of these symptoms – they can decide if the stent needs to be replaced.
Sometimes an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP) for a biliary stent can cause pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms include bad tummy and back pain and being sick. Your doctors will look out for this problem but if it happens after you have gone home, phone your nurse, or go to your local accident and emergency (A&E) department if it’s outside working hours.
Resting and having soft foods and fluids can help these symptoms to settle down. But if they are more severe you may need to go back to hospital.
Occasionally stents cause discomfort in the upper tummy when they are first put in. This is not common and normally gets better over a few days.
There are some other possible problems from having a stent put in, but these are very rare. For example, there is a risk of getting a hole in the duodenum during or after the stent is put in. This can cause bleeding, being sick, or an infection.
If you have any side effects after you have left hospital, phone your nurse or doctor, or go to your local A&E department if it’s outside working hours.
If you have any questions or worries about having a stent put in, speak to your medical team. You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.
More information on stents
Updated February 2019
Review date February 2021