Biliary stenting is used to treat obstructions that occur in the bile ducts. Bile is a substance that helps to digest fats and is produced by the liver, secreted through the bile ducts, and stored in the gallbladder. It is released into the small intestine after a fat-containing meal has been eaten. The release of bile is controlled by a muscle called the sphincter of Oddi found at the junction of the bile ducts and the small intestine.
There are a number of conditions, malignant or benign, that can cause strictures of the bile duct. Pancreatic cancer is the most common malignant cause, followed by cancers of the gallbladder, bile duct, liver, and large intestine. Noncancerous causes of bile duct stricture include:
- injury to the bile ducts during surgery for gallbladder removal (accounting for 80% of nonmalignant strictures)
- pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- primary sclerosing cholangitis (an inflammation of the bile ducts that may cause pain, jaundice, itching, or other symptoms)
- radiation therapy
- blunt trauma to the abdomen
Prior to ERCP or PTC, the patient will be instructed to refrain from eating or drinking for at least six hours to ensure that the stomach and upper part of the intestine are free of food. The physician should be notified as to what medications the patient takes and if the patient has an allergy to iodine, which is found in the contrast dye. Antibiotics will be started prior to surgery and continued for several days afterward.
Complications associated with ERCP include excessive bleeding, infection, pancreatitis, cholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts), cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), and injury to the intestine. PTC may result in bleeding, infection of the injection site, sepsis (spread of infection to the blood), or leakage of the dye into the abdomen. Complications specific to the stent include migration (movement of the stent out of the area in which it was placed), occlusion (blockage), and intestinal perforation.
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