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What is a Pancreatic Stent?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A pancreatic stent is a small tube that is inserted into the pancreatic duct to allow materials to drain. There are a number of reasons why a stent may be recommended, and it can be placed by a surgeon or an endoscopic specialist. Patients may have a choice between a temporary plastic stent and a permanent metal one, and they should discuss all options, along with their risks and benefits, before deciding on which type would be most suitable.

One reason to place a stent in the pancreas is to remove an obstruction. Stenting can keep the pancreatic duct open to express stones, growths, and other obstructions that may be present. Surgeons can also enter the pancreas through a stent to perform one of several procedures. Stents may be inserted in other cases to ensure that bile can drain freely from the organ. A common reason that a stent could be required for drainage is in cases of pancreatic cancer, which can block the bile duct and cause the substance to build up. This leads to jaundice and can cause pain and discomfort for the patient.

Pancreatic duct stenting can also be used for patients with pancreatic divisum. In people with this congenital condition, the pancreatic ducts fail to fuse during development into a common duct, so the stent is used for drainage. Stenting may also be used in the treatment of pancreatic fistulas, in which an opening is formed in the pancreas where one should not be. The pancreatic stent can bypass the fistula to allow the pancreas to drain safely.

Insertion of a stent can be performed endoscopically. In the procedure, the patient may be sedated and given local, regional, or general anesthetic. The surgeon can make small incisions to insert an endoscope to see the pancreas, or can advance the endoscope through the digestive tract via the mouth, along with the necessary tools, including the stent. The stent is carefully placed and checked, and then the incision is closed or the endoscope removed.

When a surgeon recommends stenting, patients should ask why the procedure is being recommended and what the planned outcome of the procedure is. It can also be a good idea to ask about how long the stent needs to remain in place, what the risks of infection and other complications are, and how the stent will be inserted, as there are various approaches possible. There may be situations in which a person is not a good candidate for surgery or stenting, and patients should make sure that their doctors are familiar with their complete medical histories so that any risk factors can be identified.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon966498 — On Aug 20, 2014

I had a plastic pancreatic stent put in in February this year. Are plastic stents supposed to be removed? I do not remember what the surgeon said and he no longer works at the hospital.

By anon941224 — On Mar 21, 2014

Stents may be inserted in other cases to ensure that bile can drain freely from the organ. A common reason that a stent could be required for drainage is in cases of pancreatic cancer, which can block the bile duct and cause the substance to build up. This leads to jaundice and can cause pain and discomfort for the patient.

This is why a stent may be placed with pancreatic cancer; it is in the info above. It is not a treatment for cancer, but to help the patient be more comfortable.

By SteamLouis — On Jun 14, 2012

@burcinc-- I agree with @ysmina, there are many reasons for putting in a pancreatic stent.

I had one put in because of pancreatitis. The doctors found out that my bile duct was very narrow and the inflammation in my pancreas had narrowed it even further. The bile was barely able to pass through the duct.

I was starting to experience jaundice and its symptoms like yellowing of my skin, nausea and dizziness. After the stent was put in place, the symptoms slowly resolved in several weeks. I'm glad I had the surgery before my jaundice got worse.

By ysmina — On Jun 13, 2012

@burcinc-- You really must speak to your father's physician to know the details. No matter what anyone says, it'll only be guesswork because there is more than one reason for why a pancreatic stent might be necessary.

As far as I know, the stent can't help treat cancer. But it may alleviate symptoms associated with jaundice or a blockage in the pancreas that's preventing the flow of bile.

If your dad is receiving chemotherapy right now, he must not have jaundice. I don't think doctors allow chemotherapy in that situation. So there must be another reason. It's probably again due to the flow of bile, but only the doctor can clarify that.

By burcinc — On Jun 13, 2012

Hello, I have a few questions about pancreatic stents, I hope someone can answer.

My dad is scheduled to have a pancreatic stent put in his place. He has been receiving pancreatic cancer treatment (chemotherapy) for the past several months. I just heard from him about the stent and didn't have a chance to speak to his doctor as I'm in a different state.

I'm a little confused as to what the role of a stent is as part of my dad's treatment. Will this stent help treat his cancer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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