A biliary stent is used to open blocked bile ducts in the liver. Bile needs to go from the liver, through the bile duct, and into your intestine. Bile is needed for digestion. If the bile duct is blocked, the bile can back up in your liver. This can cause you to have jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), dark-colored urine, light-colored stool, pain in your belly, or to feel like you need to throw up. A stent can be put in your bile duct to allow the fluid to flow again and help you feel better.
What is a biliary stent and how is it put in?
A biliary stent is a thin, metal, or plastic tube that is put in the bile duct to hold/keep it open to allow bile to flow into the intestine (bowel). The stent can be put in in two ways:
- ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) - ERCP uses a tool called an endoscope which is a tube with a light and camera on the end. It is put into your mouth and slowly moved down the throat, through the stomach, and into the intestine. Once it gets to the area that bile should flow from, dye is injected. The dye can be seen with an x-ray and will show your doctor what areas are blocked. Once a blockage is found, the endoscope is used to put a stent into that area of the bile duct.
- PTC (percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography) – PTC is done through a needle is inserted through your belly and into the liver. Dye is injected to identify the blocked duct. Once located, the doctor passes a small tube through the needle and into the bile duct. Then a stent is pushed through the tube and into the duct.
You will have anesthesia and be asleep for the procedure. Biliary stent(s) are usually put in during an outpatient procedure, meaning you will go home after spending some time in the recovery room. You will need a ride home. Biliary stents need to be replaced every 3-6 months or more frequently if the stent gets blocked or inflamed (cholangitis).
When To Contact Your Provider
Stents can get blocked over time, become infected, or cause inflammation in the bile duct (called cholangitis). When these problems happen, the stent will not work, and bile will back up in the liver again. It is important to contact your provider or go to the hospital if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes).
- Itchy skin.
- Pain in the upper right belly or under the right shoulder blade.
- Fever - temperature 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher.
- Pale, light-colored stool.
- Dark-colored urine.
If you go to the hospital, let the hospital staff know that you have a biliary stent.