Biliary stenting via endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography has greatly improved the quality of patient care over the last 30 years. Plastic stent occlusion limits the life span of such stents. Attempts to improve plastic stent patency duration have mostly failed. Metal stents (self-expandable metal stents [SEMSs]) have therefore replaced plastic stents, especially for malignant biliary strictures. SEMS are at least 10 times more expensive than plastic stents. In this focused review, we will discuss basic mechanisms of plastic stent occlusion, along with a systematic summary of previous efforts and related studies to improve stent patency and potential new techniques to overcome existing limitations.