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Endoscopic stenting proved to be a safe alternative to surgery for malignant intra-abdominal gastrointestinal obstruction. Although high technical success rates have been reported, some patients do not experience relief in symptoms.This study aimed to analyse the factors predicting the effectiveness of stent placement in patients with gastrointestinal obstruction.A retrospective study was carried out including 160 patients who underwent palliative stenting for intra-abdominal obstruction in a tertiary centre from December 2012 to July 2017. Technical and clinical success, stent dysfunction and adverse events were analysed.The rate of technical success was 98%. The rate of early clinical success was 69 and 81% in upper and lower gastrointestinal obstructions, respectively (P=0.107). In the upper tract, obstruction caused by carcinomatosis was the only independent factor predicting early and late clinical failure [odds ratio (OR): 9.7, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.5–38.4, P=0.001 and OR: 7.6, 95% CI: 1.8–31.9, P=0.006, respectively]. In the colon, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group score of at least 3 was an independent factor for early clinical failure (OR: 29.8, 95% CI: 1.9–464.9, P=0.002) and obstruction caused by carcinomatosis was an independent factor for late clinical failure (OR: 14.4, 95% CI: 1.7–119.6, P=0.013). Perforation occurred in 4 patients (2.5%) and stent dysfunction occurred in 15% of patients (4% stent migration; 9% restenosis). Carcinomatosis was a risk factor for perforation (P=0.039) and migration was higher with shorter 6 cm stents (P=0.044).Stents are effective and safe for palliation of intra-abdominal obstruction. Carcinomatosis predicts an unfavourable clinical outcome. Palliative stenting as an option should be weighed carefully in these patients.