Problems with stents

Stents to treat symptoms of pancreatic cancer can cause some problems. There are ways to deal with these.

Blockages

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.

Infection

A stent may be put into the bile duct to treat jaundice, or the duodenum to treat sickness. There is a risk that the stent may get infected, which is normally caused by the stent getting blocked.

Signs of a stent infection include:

  • tummy pain
  • sore muscles
  • a high temperature, fever, shivering or feeling cold
  • being sick or loss of appetite
  • yellow eyes, dark urine, pale poo and itching (these are signs of jaundice).


If you have signs of an infection, you should go to A&E, or phone 999 for an ambulance. You will usually need antibiotics to treat the infection, and the stent can be replaced.

Stent moving out of place

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.

Inflamed pancreas

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.

Discomfort

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.

Other possible problems

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.

Questions about stents?

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.

Speak to our nurses
Specialist nurse Nicci

Updated February 2019

Review date February 2021