A colonic stent is a hollow apparatus implanted in the bowel to eliminate an obstruction. This type of stent is made from a fine mesh-like metallic material, and will expand after placement in the colon. An endoscopic procedure is used to implant a colonic stent, and the process is less invasive than traditional surgery to remove bowel obstructions. Stent placement may be recommended for people that are not healthy enough for open abdominal surgery to remove a fecal blockage or to allow time for an inflamed colon to return to normal size before surgery.
Untreated bowel obstructions can lead to a ruptured colon and emergency surgery. The fecal contents of the colon are full of bacteria, and if leaked into the abdominal cavity may cause a serious infection called peritonitis. Placement of a stent in the colon may prevent this from occurring.
Before a colonic stent can be put inside the colon, the colon must be completely emptied. A special low-residue diet is advised beginning three days before the procedure. An enema may be administered to cleanse any remaining content in the bowel the night before the colonic stent is implanted. Another enema may be required the morning of the procedure to ensure no fecal matter remains in the colon.
The stent is implanted in the colon during an inpatient hospital procedure. An intravenous (IV) line may be started to administer an anesthetic and a mild sedative before the process begins. The patient will need to lie on his left side, then a lubricated guide wire will be inserted through the anus past the point of the bowel blockage. A video camera lens is attached to the guide wire to allow the technician to visualize the inside of the colon.
Once the bowel obstruction has been located, a second guide wire will be inserted into the rectum. The colonic stent will be threaded onto the second guide wire and maneuvered into position over the obstruction. When released from the guide wire, the metallic stent expands and compresses the blockage, allowing fecal matter to move through the colon.
Complications of the colonic stent procedure are not likely. It is possible one of the guide wires will perforate the bowel and cause excessive bleeding or an infection to develop. The stent may move from its original placement inside the colon, and the bowel can become obstructed again. Occasionally, the stent is expelled during a bowel movement. The colonic stent may be need to be replaced if this occurs.
After the colonic stent procedure, a diet of soft foods is recommended for the first few days. Most people will need to stay in the hospital overnight after the stent is implanted. A spiral computerized tomography (CT) scan may be done the day after to confirm the stent has been placed correctly and the bowel obstruction has been cleared.