Dr. Todd H. Baron from Mayo Foundation in Rochester, Minnesota has created a break through of sorts by using expandable metal stents in the digestive tract of people afflicted with gastrointestinal cancers.
These patients commonly suffer from obstructions and they present with symptoms like difficulty in swallowing, if the block is in the esophagus; they might present with other symptoms like difficulty in defecation, alternating diarrhea and constipation, bleeding in stools and so on.
The stents are inserted through an area blocked by cancer and expanded to create a tunnel, and then the metal becomes imbedded in and eventually becomes part of the wall of the organ be it the esophagus, the stomach or the intestines. Dr. Baron said success rates can reach 90%. However the flip side is that severe complications like spread of cancer, bleeding and recurrent blockage can recur.
Upto 2% of patients can die on table from the procedure itself. However Dr. Baron asserts that in most cases of cancerous blockages, the benefit of expandable stents outweigh their risks.
Expandable metal stents have also been used to bypass blockages in the bile ducts, thereby sparing the patient more invasive procedures and long periods of hospitalization, says Dr. Baron in his report published in the May 31st issue of the The New England Journal of Medicine.