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What is an oesophageal stent?
Figure 1 – Inserted stent
A stent (tube) is placed in the narrowed area of your oesophagus (gullet), where it gently expands to allow fluid and food to pass into the stomach more easily (figure 1). You will not be able to eat or drink for four hours after the procedure. Once the stent is confirmed in place, only clear fluids (water, squash, herbal or fruit teas, beef extract drinks such as Bovril® or Marmite®) may be taken for the remainder of the day.
Starting to eat – Once the doctor allows you to eat (usually the next day), choose soft foods (coded by the letter S on the menu). It is important that you:
→ Sit upright whilst eating and for at least 30 minutes after eating
→ Start with only small amounts of food
→ Chew the food very well and spit out food that you have not been able to chew properly – if you wear dentures, make sure they fit properly.
→ Take your time with meals; try putting down your knife and fork between mouthfuls
→ Sip drinks during and after the meal – this will help clean the tube and prevent it blocking. Lukewarm water is best.
→ Don’t eat foods that are difficult to chew and swallow
→ Don’t try to eat big lumps of food or chunks of meat
→ Don’t panic if you feel the tube is blocked – the blockage only affects the tube to your stomach and will not affect your ability to breathe. Stop eating the take small sips of a drink and walk around for a while. If blockage persists, speak to a nurse whilst in hospital; once home, contact the upper GI nurses on 01908 996549 (Monday-Friday 08:00-18:00) or your local A&E outside of these hours.
→ Don’t eat one hour before going to bed
→ Don’t bend from the hips to pick something up – bend from the knees instead. This will help to prevent acid reflux.
Eating when you have an oesophageal stent
Over the following weeks you will be able to find out what types and textures of food you can manage best and will gradually build up the amount you can eat as swallowing becomes easier and your confidence improves.
Have frequent sips of fluid between and after meals to wash down any food. You may have heard fizzy drinks are the best option to clear the stent, but this can cause symptoms of acid reflux. Warm water is a better option if you feel food is trapped in your stent.
How to maintain a balanced diet
• Eat regularly – You may find that three small meals with snacks in between are easier to manage, especially if you have a small appetite
• Try to include a range of different food to get all the nutrients you need, including:
o Suitable meats, fish and pulses
o Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese
o Starchy foods such as potatoes, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals and bread
o Fruits and vegetables daily (including tinned and juiced)
o Drink 6-8 cups of fluid every day
What to do if you are losing weight
If you find you are losing weight unintentionally, try the following:
• Have a soft pudding after meals – e.g. sponge and custard, milk pudding, ice cream, yoghurt, jelly.
• Enrich the foods you eat by adding butter, grated cheese, cream, milk powder, evaporated milk.
• Have nourishing drinks such as hot milky drinks, full fat cold milk, milkshakes, fruit juice and soups in between meals. You could also buy fortified drinks from the supermarket/chemist such as Meritene® and Complan®.
• Ready Meals/Meals on wheels – If you are finding cooking is difficult or makes you tired, convenience foods can be useful. Try shop-bought ready meals, or there are companies who can deliver frozen ready meals to your house. Some of them produce a soft or pureed range of foods. Ask you dietitian for more details.
• Visit your dentist if damaged/loose teeth or dentures are limiting the foods you can eat.
If you would like more information on gaining weight, ask the Dietitian for the ‘Food First’ dietary leaflet. If you have been discharged from hospital, this information can also be obtained from your GP or specialist nurse. If you have any queries regarding your diet, contact the dietetic department on 01908 243126.