This retrospective study was undertaken to assess the cost-benefit aspects of self expanding metal stents (SEMS), versus Atkinson Tubes (AT) in the palliation of obstructing esophageal tumors. Over a 4 year period, 50 patients received palliative endoscopic intubation for inoperable esophageal malignancy. Patients either received an AT or a newer, but more expensive, SEMS, both inserted under general anaesthetic. Both patients cohorts were assessed in terms of the severity of their dysphagia and scored according to Atkinson and Fergusons' classification both pre- and post-operatively. Other factors that were considered included length of hospital stay, number of interventions, admission to the Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU), and rates of post-operative complication. The majority of tumors were either adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. The location of the tumors (upper, middle or lower) were similar in each group as was the mean length of tumor being 7 cms in SEMS and 5 cms in AT. There were significantly more complications in the AT group compared to the SEMS group (p < 0.05). The most common complications in the AT group were tube displacement (21%), tumor overgrowth (26%) and esophageal perforation (13%). In contrast complications of the SEMS group were tumor overgrowth (15%) and esophageal perforation (8%). Mean hospital stay was 3 (1-30) days for SEMS and 8 (2-122) days for AT (p < 0.05). The median total cost of hospital stay was 1745 pounds (1027-5424) for SEMS versus 2349 pounds (1163-24,481) for AT.