BackgroundThis study aimed to compare clinical outcomes following placement of fully covered self-expanding metallic stents (FCSEMS) vs partially covered self-expanding metallic stents (PCSEMS) for palliative treatment of inoperable esophageal cancer.MethodsWe searched PubMed, ScienceDirect, Embase, and CENTRAL (Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) databases from inception up to 10th July 2019. Studies comparing clinical outcomes with FCSEMS vs PCSEMS in patients with inoperable esophageal cancer requiring palliative treatment for dysphagia were included.ResultsFive studies were included in the review. Two hundred twenty-nine patients received FCSEMS while 313 patients received PCSEMS in the five studies. There was no difference in the rates of stent migration between FCSEMS and PCSEMS (Odds ratio [OR] 0.63, 95%CI 0.37–1.08, P = 0.09; I2 = 0%). Meta-analysis indicated no significant difference in technical success between the two groups (OR 1.32, 95%CI 0.30–5.03, P = 0.78; I2 = 12%). Improvement in dysphagia was reported with both FCSEMS and PCSEMS in the included studies. There was no difference between the two stents for obstruction due to tissue growth (OR 0.81, 95%CI 0.47–1.39, P = 0.44; I2 = 2%) or by food (OR 0.41, 95%CI 0.10–1.62, P = 0.20; I2 = 29%). Incidence of bleeding (OR 0.57, 95%CI 0.21–1.58, P = 0.28; I2 = 0%) and chest pain (OR 1.06, 95%CI 0.44–2.57, P = 0.89; I2 = 0%) was similar in the two groups. Sensitivity analysis and subgroup analysis of RCTs and non-RCTs produced similar results. The overall quality of studies was not high.ConclusionOur results indicate that there is no difference in stent migration, and stent obstruction, with FCSEMS or PCSEMS when used for palliative treatment of esophageal malignancy.