Stent for a blocked bile duct

If the cancer is blocking your bile duct and causing jaundice, you may have a stent put in to open up the bile duct.

What's in the 'Stents for a blocked bile duct' section?

Key facts

  • Jaundice turns your skin or eyes yellow. Yellow skin may be less obvious if you have brown or black skin, but you may notice the white part of your eyes looks yellow. Jaundice also makes you feel itchy and causes pale poo and dark urine.
  • Jaundice is caused by the cancer blocking the bile duct. Bile is a fluid which helps with digestion. The bile duct is a tube that takes bile from the liver to the small intestine.
  • If the cancer has blocked the bile duct, a tube called a stent can be put into the bile duct. This stent is called a biliary stent.
  • The stent will open the blockage and treat the jaundice.
  • It may take several days for the jaundice to improve and for you to start to feel better.
  • Sometimes there can be problems with stents. They can get blocked or move out of place. You could also get an infection or inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). There are ways to manage these problems.
  • Talk to your medical team about any questions you have. You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

What are stents and when are they used?

Stents are tubes. A stent for the bile duct is called a biliary stent.

A diagram of a biliary stent

When are stents used?

  • You may have a stent put in to treat jaundice if your cancer can’t be removed by surgery.
  • If your cancer can be removed by surgery but you are not yet well enough to have the operation, you may have a stent put in to treat the jaundice before the surgery.
  • If your cancer can be removed by surgery and you are well enough to have the operation, you may not need a stent as the surgery will treat the jaundice.
  • You may have a stent put in to treat jaundice if you are going to have chemotherapy before surgery.

Advantages and disadvantages of stents


  • The stent should open up the blocked bile duct and treat the jaundice.
  • You should start feeling better quickly, normally within a couple of days of having the stent put in.
  • Treating the jaundice may mean you can start or continue treatment for the cancer.


  • The stent may get blocked and the symptoms you had before may come back.
  • There is a chance of getting an infection after having a stent put in. Infections can be treated with antibiotics.
  • There is a small chance of your stent moving after it has been put in. If this happens it may need to be replaced.
  • The procedure to put the stent in can cause pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas.

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse

You might want to write down any questions you have for your doctor or nurse. You may also want to take someone with you, they can write down the answers to your questions and any other important information.

  • Will a stent help me feel better?
  • How quickly will I feel better after the stent is put in?
  • Are there any problems with stents?
  • Will I need any blood tests after having the stent put in?
  • Will a stent affect future treatment such as chemotherapy?

Read our fact sheet about stents to treat jaundice caused by a blocked bile duct

To read more about using stents to treat jaundice, download our fact sheet, Stents to treat jaundice caused by a blocked bile duct.

You can also order a physical copy.

Order our fact sheet

Questions about stents?

Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any questions.

You can also speak to our nurses on our free Support Line with any questions or worries you might have about a stent.

Speak to our nurses
Specialist nurse, Lisa, talks on the phone to offer support.

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Updated October 2023

Review date October 2026