Background and study aims: The palliative endoscopic treatment of malignant obstruction of the upper gastrointestinal tract, including esophagorespiratory fistulas, is often difficult. The efficacy of polyethylene-coated [corrected] Gianturco-Z stents in these sometimes complicated tumor stenoses was investigated.
Patients and methods: Twenty patients with malignant obstruction of the esophagus and the cardia, including six patients with esophagotracheal fistulas, were treated with Gianturco-Z stents. Five patients had previously been provided with another type of self-expanding metal endoprosthesis (two with Wallstents and three with Ultra-flex memory metal stents), and needed retreatment because of tumor ingrowth or overgrowth, esophagotracheal fistulas, or insufficient stent expansion. All data acquired prior to and during stent implantation, as well as during the follow-up period, were recorded prospectively.
Results: No technical problems occurred during the implantation of the stents. Nineteen of 20 Gianturco-Z stents (95%) spontaneously showed sufficient expansion at the endoscopic control, which was conducted within the following 48 hours. All patients, with the exception of one, reported immediate improvement of their dysphagia. The sealing of the six fistulas was also achieved. Severe early complications, such as bleeding or perforation, did not occur, but one stent migration was encountered. Two types of minor problems were observed: short-term retrosternal and epigastric pain (11 patients) and formation of a pouch at the upper rim of the stent (one patient). In the follow-up, tumor overgrowth of the stent ends was found in one patient, who was retreated with electrocoagulation. Tumor infiltration of the wire mesh has not been observed so far. In one patient, dislocation of a stent into the stomach occurred (probably as a result of endoscopic measures being performed to control tumor bleeding).
Conclusions: We conclude that the treatment of malignant esophageal obstructions, including esophagorespiratory fistulas, with Gianturco-Z stents is effective, and that implantation is safe, especially in the case of tumor stenoses in the proximal esophagus. The expansile force of the stent is sufficient even for very firm strictures; and the polyethylene [corrected] covering of the stent seems to prevent tumor ingrowth.