What is a Biliary Stent?

A biliary stent may be needed if a bile duct blockage occurs during gallbladder removal.

A biliary stent is a tube inserted into the liver’s common bile duct in cases where the duct becomes blocked. The stent is inserted after surgery to unblock the duct and ensure it remains inflated and operative. The biliary stent is made of inert substances, such as plastic or metal, which are unlikely to provoke an immune response.

An ultrasound can be used to investigate liver and gallbladder problems.

The liver plays an important role in digestion, producing bile, which is needed to break down fats. Bile drains from the liver into the common bile duct and this duct empties into the portion of the intestine that receives partially digested food from the stomach. Blockage of the common bile duct prevents the liver from functioning normally and affects digestion.

A biliary stent is placed in the liver’s bile duct to treat the blockage.

The most common cause of non-malignant bile duct blockage is injury to the duct during gallbladder removal surgery. Blockage of the common bile duct can also be caused by traumatic injury to the abdomen, gallstones, or inflammation of the pancreas, which is located below the liver. The bile ducts themselves can also become inflamed, in a condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis. All of these conditions may require treatment with a biliary stent to correct the duct blockage problem.

Inserting a biliary stent involves a surgical procedure.

In a surgical biliary stent placement procedure, a catheter is first inserted into the blocked bile duct to allow the duct to drain. Then a biliary stent is inserted. There are two different methods by which the stent can be placed: endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC).

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ERCP involves the use of an illuminated hollow tube called an endoscope. The tube is introduced into the patient’s mouth, through the esophagus and stomach, to the point where the common bile duct empties into the small intestine. Once the endoscope is in place, a second tube called a cannula is inserted. The cannula is used to inject colored dye into the bile duct.

Biliary limitations are often performed using an endoscopic procedure known as ERCP.

Then x-rays of the abdomen are taken. The dye improves X-ray contrast so that bile duct blockages can be located easily. If a biliary stent is needed, it is inserted through the catheter and placed at the site of the blockage as detected on high-contrast radiographs.

In some cases, the ERCP cannot locate the bile duct blockage sites. When this occurs, PTC can be used to try to locate a blocked bile duct. In this procedure, contrast dye is injected through the skin and X-rays are taken. If a stent is needed, a hollow needle is inserted into the skin and the stent is inserted into the blocked duct through the needle.

Patients may be required to stay overnight in a hospital after a biliary stent procedure.

Most cases of non-malignant bile duct blockage can be successfully treated with one of these biliary stent placement procedures. After the procedure, patients may stay in the hospital for just a few hours or overnight. The length of stay depends on the patient’s general physical health and the presence of any risk factors for complications such as infection or jaundice. Possible complications include gallbladder inflammation, bile duct inflammation, and infection.

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