K36 -- September 2010 -- GI Stents
Intro: Doctors have been using stents in arteries of the heart for many years. The devices open blockages and allow blood that was once restricted to flow. Now they're using stents in the digestive tract too. Not to open arteries, but to open blockages caused by cancer.
Rose Halla says spreading frosting is her way of spreading joy.
"It's a fun way to use your energy and make someone happy."
Even during a battle with stage two colon cancer, Rose kept decorating cakes. That's because her treatment, which included the use of stents, was a little easier than she thought it would be.
"Stents are expandable metal tubes, if you will, and they were initially developed for use in the coronary arteries."
Dr. Todd Baron says the stents can also be used in the GI tract to open blockages caused by cancer. In Rose's case, the cancerous tumor completely obstructed her colon. Traditionally, she would have needed two operations: one to create a diversion so her colon could empty into an outside bag — that's needed because the colon has to be cleared out before surgery. Then, a second operation to remove the cancer, and to reattach the colon. With the stents, Rose didn't need an outside bag and only had one surgery.
"I would have had to go through having a colostomy bag attached for about 2 months. Instead, I would have a stent for 2 weeks."
Here's how stents work: Dr. Baron advances an endoscope to the site of the blockage. Once there, he uses X-ray guidance to move a guide wire across the blockage. Then, he advances the stent over the guide wire and deploys it. Over the next couple days, the stent expands, allowing the colon to empty.
Again, Rose had the stent temporarily placed in her colon to open a blockage to prepare her for surgery. They can also be used for people who can't have surgery, but who need relief from symptoms of blockages caused by cancer.
Stents significantly improved Rose's quality of life during treatment. Now she's cancer-free and still spreading the joy with her cakes.
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
In addition to the colon, stents may be used to open blockages in other sites in the GI tract, including the esophagus, stomach and bile duct. For more information, visit our website at …
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