A randomized trial of thermal ablative therapy versus expandable metal stents in the palliative treatment of patients with esophageal carcinoma

Gastrointest Endosc. 2001 Nov;54(5):549-57. doi: 10.1067/mge.2001.118947.


Background: Expandable metal stent insertion and thermal tumor ablation (TTA) both improve dysphagia in patients with advanced esophageal cancer, but no direct comparison study of their efficacy on health-related quality of life has been published. The aim of this study was to compare survival, relief of dysphagia, quality of life, and cost in patients treated by thermal ablation or stent insertion.

Methods: Sixty-five patients with histologically proven, inoperable esophageal and esophagogastric cancer were initially assessed by endoscopy, barium contrast radiography, and CT of the thorax and abdomen. Dysphagia and quality of life were serially assessed at monthly intervals. Patients were randomized to either repeated TTA or insertion of an expandable metal stent.

Results: Median survival was significantly longer for patients who underwent TTA; 125 days (17-546) versus 68 days (8-602) for those in whom a stent was inserted (p < 0.05), although relief of dysphagia was disappointing in both groups. Several patients in both groups had serious treatment-related complications and required further therapy. Median length of hospital stay and cost were greater for patients treated by TTA. Health-related quality of life was globally impaired in both groups at randomization and deteriorated significantly in the stent group. Pain was reported more commonly by patients with stents.

Conclusions: The palliation of patients with advanced esophageal and esophagogastric cancer remains unsatisfactory. Health-related quality of life deteriorated in the stent group but not in the TTA group. Patients treated by TTA live longer than patients treated by stent insertion, but the cost of TTA is higher.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / surgery
  • Electrocoagulation
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / complications
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / economics
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Laser Coagulation* / economics
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care* / economics
  • Quality of Life
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Stents* / economics
  • Survival Analysis
  • United Kingdom