Background: The aim was to evaluate the radiologic appearances and complications that occurred after placement of nonexpandable silicone stents used as palliative therapy for patients with malignant tracheoesophageal fistulas (TEFs).
Methods: Records of 11 patients (6 males, 5 females) who underwent placement of esophageal stents for malignant TEF between 1988 and 1994 were reviewed. Nine patients had esophageal carcinoma and two patients bronchogenic carcinoma. A TEF was documented radiographically in all patients. Silicone stents were placed in all patients under endoscopic guidance. A chest radiograph was obtained for each patient immediately following stent placement to confirm proper positioning and to assess complications. A contrast study was performed within 24 hours after the procedure to evaluate the function of the stent and its efficacy for occluding the fistulous tract. The patients were followed until January 1995 or until their death (range 1.5-24. 0 months).
Results: Seven of the patients developed stent-related complications. Within the first 24 hours after stent insertion (which was successful in 100% of cases), 2 of the 11 patients developed minor complications. One patient had pooling of contrast around the proximal portion of the stent leading to aspiration of contrast, and one patient experienced transient, asymptomatic, idiopathic, esophagovenous intravasation. Delayed (>24 hours) complications related to stent placement occurred in five of the patients: one patient each had pooling at the proximal end of the stent with aspiration, worsening esophageal dysphagia causing reflux through the stent, caudad stent migration, superior stent migration, epithelial hyperplasia causing obstruction of the stent, and pressure necrosis. There were no cases of hemorrhage. Two patients were lost to long-term follow-up, and eight patients died of their disease, all unrelated to the stent placement.
Conclusion: Silicone esophageal stents provide successful short-term palliation for most patients with malignant TEF but are not without associated complications. These complications, however, can usually be detected early using radiographic imaging, permitting remediation.