OBJECTIVE: To compare the results of single-dose internal irradiation (brachytherapy) and self-expanding metal stent placement in the palliation of oesophageal obstruction due to cancer of the oesophagus. DESIGN: Randomised trial. METHOD: In the period from December 1999-Jun 2002, 209 patients with dysphagia due to inoperable carcinoma of the oesophagus were randomised to placement of an Ultraflex stent (n = 108) or single-dose (12 Gy) brachytherapy (n = 101). Primary outcome was relief of dysphagia; secondary outcomes were complications, persistent or recurrent dysphagia, health-related quality of life, and costs. Patients were followed up by monthly home visits from a specialised nurse. RESULTS: Dysphagia improved more rapidly after stent placement than after brachytherapy, but long-term relief of dysphagia was better after brachytherapy. Stent placement resulted in more complications than did brachytherapy (36/108 (33%) versus 21/101 (21%); p = 0.02), due mainly to an increased incidence of late haemorrhage in the stent group (14 versus 5; p = 0.05). The groups did not differ with regard to the incidence of persistent or recurrent dysphagia or median survival (p > 0.20). In the long term, quality-of-life scores were higher in the brachytherapy group. Total medical costs were also similar for both treatments: Euro 8,215 for stent placement and Euro 8,135 for brachytherapy. CONCLUSION: Brachytherapy provided better long-term relief of dysphagia than did stent placement and also produced fewer complications. Brachytherapy is therefore recommended as the preferred treatment for the palliation of dysphagia due to oesophageal cance
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