Greater than 50% of patients with esophageal carcinoma are found to be incurable at the time of diagnosis, leaving only palliative options. Self-expanding metal stents (SEMs) are effective for relieving symptoms and complications associated with esophageal carcinoma and improving quality of life. We undertook a retrospective analysis to evaluate the experience of palliative esophageal stenting for symptomatic malignant dysphagia in our institution over a period of 7 years. Between January 1999 and January 2006, 126 patients who received SEMs for malignant dysphagia were identified using an upper gastrointestinal specialist nurse clinician database. Data were obtained from patient case notes, endoscopy, histopathology, radiology, and external agency databases. Of the 126 identified, 36 patients were excluded from the analysis. A number of variables including age, sex, presenting complaints, type of stent, indications of stenting, success or failure of stent insertion, survival rate, and complication rate were analyzed. Of the 90 patients, 55 (61%) were male and 35 (39%) were female. The mean age of patients was 70.79 (range 40-97) years. The predominant presenting complaints were dysphagia (n = 81) and weight loss (n = 48). The indication for stenting was worsening dysphagia in all patients. Tumors were confined to the distal esophagus and esophagogastric junction in 73 patients (81%), and the mid-esophagus in 17 (19%). Adenocarcinoma was identified in 61 patients (67.8%) and squamous cell carcinoma in 29 (32.2%). Stenting numbers were comparable in endoscopic and radiologic groups (47 vs. 43), with successful stent deployment in 89 patients. The 7-and 30-day mortality was 9% (n = 8) and 28% (n = 25), respectively. Comparable numbers of early deaths were seen in both radiologic (n = 13) and endoscopic (n = 12) groups. Causes of early inpatient death included hemorrhage (n = 5), pneumonia (n = 7), exhaustion (n = 2), cardiac causes (n = 3), perforation (n = 1), and sepsis (n = 1). The number of patients with complications was 41 (45.6%), 25 in the surgical group and 15 in the radiologic group; the difference was not significant (P = 0.13). The mean survival time was 92.5 (0-638) days and median survival time was 61 days. A subgroup of patients with complete dysphagia (score 4) gained a mean survival of 59 days. Those patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy or radiotherapy survived significantly longer than those receiving stenting alone (152.8 days vs. 71.8 days). There is no significant difference in complications or survival when using endoscopic or radiologic methods to deploy SEMs in patients with inoperable esophageal cancer. Mortality is low; however, the morbidity rate is significant. Patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy or radiotherapy, in addition to stenting, survived significantly longer than those with a stent only.