This paper reports our experience in treating localized airway obstruction with expandable metal stents. Nine patients were treated for malignant obstruction and 6 for benign obstruction. The main indications for treatment were imminent asphyxia, breathlessness and/or repeated chest infections. All but 2 patients had received other treatments before referral. Seven patients with malignant obstruction had extrinsically compressed airways and all derived a sustained symptomatic improvement. Two patients with recurrent tracheal obstruction caused by intraluminal tumor gained lasting relief with the use of a covered expandable metal stent. All 6 patients with benign strictures were improved, although 2 developed recurrent obstruction caused by granulation tissue growing within and beyond the stent. It is concluded that the expandable metal stent provides an effective and noninvasive method of relieving large airway obstruction. As the long-term tissue tolerance to this type of stent is not known, caution is advised in the management of benign strictures. In patients with malignant obstruction, however, the expandable metal stent would appear to have considerable potential as a palliative treatment.