Background & Aims: The purpose of this expert review is to describe the current methodologies available to manage malignant alimentary tract obstructions as well the evidence behind the various methods (including their efficacy and safety), indications, and appropriate timing of interventions. Methods: This is not a formal systematic review but is based on a review of the literature to provide best practice advice statements. No formal rating of the quality of evidence or strength of recommendation is carried out. Best Practice Advice 1: For all patients with alimentary tract obstruction, the decision about specific interventions should be made in a multidisciplinary setting including oncologists, surgeons, and endoscopists and take into account the characteristics of the obstruction, patient's expectations, prognosis, expected subsequent therapies, and functional status. Best Practice Advice 2: For patients who present with esophageal obstruction from esophageal cancer and who are potential candidates for resection or chemoradiation, clinicians should not routinely insert a self-expanding metal stent (SEMS) without multidisciplinary review because of high rates of stent migration, higher morbidity and mortality, and potentially lower R0 (microscopically negative margins) resection rates. Best Practice Advice 3: For patients who present with esophageal obstruction from esophageal cancer who are potential candidates for resection and who have concerns of malnutrition, clinicians may consider the use of enteral feeding tubes (via nasogastric or percutaneous route). Clinicians should be aware of the potential risk of abdominal wall tumor seeding as well as making subsequent gastric conduit formation difficult with percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy placement. Best Practice Advice 4: For patients who present with esophageal obstruction from esophageal cancer who are not candidates for resection, clinicians should consider either SEMS insertion or brachytherapy as sole therapy or in combination. Clinicians should not consider the use of laser therapy or photodynamic therapy because of the lack of evidence of better outcomes and superior alternatives. Best Practice Advice 5: For patients with malignant esophageal obstruction who are undergoing SEMS placement, clinicians should use a fully covered or partially covered SEMS and not an uncovered SEMS, with consideration of a stent-anchoring/fixation method. Best Practice Advice 6: For patients with gastric outlet obstruction who have a life expectancy greater than 2 months, have good functional status, and who are surgically fit, surgical gastrojejunostomy should be considered. Best Practice Advice 7: For patients with gastric outlet obstruction who are undergoing surgical gastrojejunostomy, a laparoscopic approach is favored over an open approach because of lower blood loss and shorter hospital stay. Best Practice Advice 8: For patients with gastric outlet obstruction who are not candidates for gastrojejunostomy (surgical or endoscopic ultrasound-guided), clinicians should consider the insertion of an enteral stent. Best Practice Advice 9: Enteral stents should not be used in patients with multiple luminal obstructions or severely impaired gastric motility because of the limited benefit in these scenarios. Clinicians can consider placement of a venting gastrostomy in these patients. Best Practice Advice 10: Depending on the experience of the endoscopist, endoscopic ultrasound-guided gastrojejunostomy is an acceptable alternative to surgical gastrojejunostomy and enteral stent placement. Clinicians should be aware that there are currently no dedicated Food and Drug Administration–approved devices for endoscopic ultrasound–guided gastrojejunostomy. Best Practice Advice 11: For patients with malignant colonic obstruction who are candidates for resection, insertion of SEMS is a reasonable choice as a “bridge to surgery” to allow for one-stage, elective resection. Best Practice Advice 12: For patients with malignant colonic obstruction who are not candidates for resection, either SEMS placement or a diverting colostomy are reasonable choices depending on the patient's goals and functional status. Best Practice Advice 13: SEMS is a reasonable option for patients with proximal (or right-sided) malignant obstructions, both as a “bridge to surgery” and in the palliative setting. Best Practice Advice 14: SEMS placement is a reasonable alternative for patients with extracolonic malignancy who are not candidates for surgery, although their placement is more technically challenging, clinical success rates are more variable, and complications (including stent migration) are more frequent.
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