Most patients with pancreatic cancer develop malignant biliary obstruction. Treatment of obstruction is generally indicated to relieve symptoms and improve morbidity and mortality. First-line therapy consists of endoscopic biliary stent placement. Recent data comparing plastic stents to self-expanding metallic stents (SEMS) has shown improved patency with SEMS. The decision of whether to treat obstruction and the means for doing so depends on the clinical scenario. For patients with resectable disease, preoperative biliary decompression is only indicated when surgery will be delayed or complications of jaundice exist. For patients with locally advanced disease, self-expanding metal stents are superior to plastic stents for long-term patency. For patients with advanced disease, the choice of metallic or plastic stent depends on life expectancy. When endoscopic stent placement fails, percutaneous or surgical treatments are appropriate. Endoscopic therapy or surgical approach can be used to treat concomitant duodenal and biliary obstruction.
Keywords: Biliary tract diseases; Cholestasis; Extrahepatic; Pancreatic neoplasms; Stents.