Treatment of malignant gastric outlet obstruction with stents: An evaluation of the reported variables for clinical outcome
© Larssen et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2009
Received: 11 November 2008
Accepted: 17 June 2009
Published: 17 June 2009
Malignant gastric outlet obstruction (GOO) is commonly seen in patients with advanced gastric-, pancreatic-, duodenal, hepatobiliary or metastatic malignancies. Ten to 25% of patients with pancreatic cancer will develop duodenal obstruction during the course of the disease. Duodenal stenting with self-expandable metal stents is an alternative treatment to surgical bypass procedures. Our aim was to review the published literature regarding treatment of malignant GOO with stents to reveal whether the information provided is sufficient to evaluate the clinical effects of this treatment
A literature search from 2000 – 2007 was conducted in Pub Med, Embase, and Cochrane library, combining the following search terms: duodenal stent, malignant duodenal obstruction, gastric outlet obstruction, SEMS, and gastroenteroanastomosis.
All publications presenting data with ≥ 15 patients and only articles written in English were included and a review focusing on the following parameters were conducted: 1) The use of graded scoring systems evaluating clinical success; 2) Assessment of Quality of life (QoL) before and after treatment; 3) Information on stent-patency; 4) The use of objective criteria to evaluate the stent effect.
41 original papers in English were found; no RCT's. 16 out of 41 studies used some sort of graded scoring system. No studies had objectively evaluated QoL before or after stent treatment, using standardized QoL-questionnaires, 32/41 studies reported on stent patency and 9/41 performed an oral contrast examination after stent placement. Objective quantitative tests of gastric emptying had not been performed.
Available reports do not provide sufficient relevant information of the clinical outcome of duodenal stenting. In future studies, these relevant issues should be addressed to allow improved evaluation of the effect of stent treatment.
Malignant gastric outlet obstruction (GOO) is commonly seen in patients with advanced gastric-, pancreatic-, duodenal, hepatobiliary or metastatic malignancies. Ten to 25% of patients with pancreatic cancer will develop duodenal obstruction during the course of the disease [1, 2]. GOO may result in nausea and vomiting, leading to dehydration and cachexia, which severely reduces the patients' Quality of Life (QoL).
Traditionally, a surgical by-pass procedure, usually a gastrojejunoanastomosis (GEA), has been the palliative treatment offered, but up to 31% of the patients do not experience sufficient symptom relief following GEA [1, 3]. Furthermore, GEA has a peri-operative morbidity as high as 35% and a mortality rate of about 2% in later studies [1, 4–7].
Duodenal stenting with self-expandable metal stents (SEMS) is an alternative treatment to surgical bypass procedures. In several studies, this treatment has been evaluated as safe and efficient with a technical success rate of 90–100%, a clinical success rate of 67–100%, a rate of severe complications about 7% and non-severe complication rate about 20% [2, 6–8, 8–47]. Compared with surgery, the patients treated with stents have fewer serious complications and less need for intensive care unit (ICU)  Furthermore, the hospital stay is shorter, which is essential in palliative treatment [5, 9, 20, 32, 7].
In palliative cancer treatment, improvement of QoL is a primary goal and needs to be addressed when new treatment strategies and procedures are implemented and evaluated. Relief from obstructive symptoms is the most important parameter for evaluating the clinical effect or treatment outcome following duodenal stenting of GOO, but complications, stent patency and need for re-interventions are also parameters influencing QoL. In the available reports, objective criteria of treatment effects are often missing, which make it difficult to compare results and draw conclusions concerning effects of the treatment offered.
To review the published literature regarding treatment of malignant GOO with stents to reveal whether the information provided is sufficient to evaluate the clinical effects of this treatment, and whether QoL has been assessed.
A search for published literature for the time period January 2000 – September 2007 was conducted in Pub Med, Embase, and Cochrane library, combining the following search terms: duodenal stent, malignant duodenal obstruction, gastric outlet obstruction, SEMS, and gastroenteroanastomosis. Reference lists were hand-searched for additional literature. Furthermore, reference lists of review articles and metaanalyses from the relevant time period were used to identify additional literature. Abstracts were not included. Only studies presenting data with ≥ 15 patients and only articles written in English were included in the present review. When studies included identical patients, the most recent study was included.(see additional file 1)
The identified studies were reviewed with regard to the following parameters:
1. The use of a graded scoring systems evaluating clinical success
2. Assessment of QoL before and after treatment
3. Information on stent-patency
Stent patency defined as the time period without need for re-intervention
4. The use of objective criteria to evaluate the stent effect
Characteristics of studies included in the review (n = 41)
n (% of total)
Stent deployed by fluoroscopic guidance
Stent deployed by combined endoscopic/fluoroscopic guidance
J.H. Kim (13)
J.H Kim (41)
M. Kaw (19)
G.H. Kim (24)
Del Piano (31)
T.O. Kim (40)
J. van Hooft (38)
Clinical effect and scoring systems
Evaluation criteria applied in the reviewed studies (n = 41)
n (% of total)
Quality of Life assessment
Objective criteria for stent function
Clinical effect by graded scoring
QoL in the evaluation of clinical success
No studies had objectively evaluated QoL before or after stent treatment, using standardized QoL-forms (see table 4). Seven of 41 studies used the Karnofsky performance scale before and after stent treatment (A physical performance scale from 100-0, where a scoring of 100 is normal function and 0 is dead).
Concerning stent patency, 32/41 studies reported on this variable (see table 4), either by reporting the exact number of stent failures and time to failure after stent deployment or by calculating the patency. The rate of re-obstruction was reported in 36/41 studies, the migration rate in 34/41 studies.
Objective criteria for stent function
An oral contrast examination was performed after stent placement in 9/41 studies (see table 4). Objective quantitative tests of gastric emptying before and after treatment were not performed in any of the evaluated studies.
The present review demonstrates that a graded scoring system for symptom assessment was used in 40% of the evaluated papers. No studies provided information on QoL, although 17% of the studies used the Karnofsky scale. Information on stent patency was given in 80% of the studies and 22% had performed oral contrast examination following stent placement to objectify the stent effect. No studies quantified the effect of stent placement on rate of gastric emptying.
The main complaints of patients suffering from malignant duodenal obstruction are often nausea, severe vomiting, bloating and abdominal pain. It is questionable whether the applied scoring systems in the papers reviewed provide adequate and sufficient information about relief from these symptoms after stent placement. Improvement of symptoms estimated by a dysphagia score provides limited information concerning the effect of duodenal stenting, and should thus be used in combination with a scoring system providing information about the more characteristic symptoms of GOO. The Gut Function Score may be a step in the right direction , but this scoring system needs further evaluation and validation.
In the present review, no studies were identified using standardized forms to assess QoL before and after stent treatment. One randomized study used SF-36 to evaluate the QoL in 10 patients treated with duodenal stents , which is a validated and frequently used QoL questionnaire. This study was, however, too small for inclusion in this review. In 16% of the studies, the Karnofsky scale was used, but this scale captures only one aspect of QoL (physical function) and is today considered inadequate for evaluation of QoL . Also for surgical treatment of GOO, data on the effect of QoL is limited . There have been developed and validated several complex and advanced questionnaires for specific symptoms and specific diseases for the assessment of QoL . EORTC C30 and the organ specific modules are now widely used for the evaluation of palliative cancer treatment. By applying these validated tools, the information about the QoL of patients is improved, and a possible discrepancy between the QoL of the patient estimated by the physician and the patient might be revealed. Studies regarding QoL in palliative cancer treatment have shown that physicians tend to overestimate improvement in QoL of the patients [52, 53].
Stent-patency related to survival is an important parameter, because the need for re-interventions and re-hospitalizations most likely will reduce the patients QoL. Re-obstruction of the stent by tumor in- and overgrowth is known to occur in 15–20% of the patients  and is probably the most important factor influencing stent patency.
The main effect of stent treatment in GOO is re-establishing the passage of food from the stomach to the duodenum. Evaluation of the stent effect can hence be provided by measuring the rate of gastric empting before and after stent placement. None of the reviewed studies included information on this issue. In a recent study by Maetani et al, delayed gastric emptying of a liquid meal after stent placement was demonstrated. The patients resumed oral intake after stenting and those with a severe delay of emptying had a reduced survival time . Rate of gastric emptying was, however, only recorded after stenting, and the quantitative effect of stenting was thus not revealed. More detailed data on the effect of stenting on rate of gastric emptying is thus required, and can be used to improve the knowledge on the relation between GOO and obstructive symptoms. This is an important issue, since the relation between gastrointestinal symptoms and gastric emptying might be rather weak . Furthermore, knowledge concerning the effect of SEMS on gastric emptying could possibly help identifying subgroups of patients, in which stenting is particularly beneficial. Gastric emptying is a complex process involving grinding and emptying of the meal, and it is not likely that the re-establishment of passage is followed by a more rapid rate of gastric emptying in all subjects treated.
Only 40% of the studies reviewed used a graded scoring system to evaluate the clinical effect of their treatment. Furthermore, most studies using a graded scoring system applied a point score adapted from dysphagia in esophageal cancer and did thereby not address the symptoms more specific for GOO. The presence of obstructive symptoms (severe vomiting, nausea and bloating) is probably severely reducing the patients QoL. In palliative cancer care, improvement of QoL is a main treatment goal, and data on this issue are missing in all the evaluated papers. Objective evaluation of gastric/duodenal function after stenting is limited and no studies have performed quantitative tests of gastric emptying. The present review thus indicates that the available reports do not provide sufficient relevant information of the clinical outcome of duodenal stenting. In future studies, these relevant issues should be addressed to allow improved evaluation of the effect of stent treatment.
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