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Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica 2012 December;58(4):377-400


language: English

Surgical therapy in chronic pancreatitis

Neal C. P., Dennison A. R., Garcea G.

Department of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery, Leicester General Hospital, Gwendolen Road, Leicester, UK


Chronic pancreatitis (CP) is an inflammatory disease of the pancreas which causes chronic pain, as well as exocrine and endocrine failure in the majority of patients, together producing social and domestic upheaval and a very poor quality of life. At least half of patients will require surgical intervention at some stage in their disease, primarily for the treatment of persistent pain. Available data have now confirmed that surgical intervention may produce superior results to conservative and endoscopic treatment. Comprehensive individual patient assessment is crucial to optimal surgical management, however, in order to determine which morphological disease variant (large duct disease, distal stricture with focal disease, expanded head or small duct/minimal change disease) is present in the individual patient, as a wide and differing range of surgical approaches are possible depending upon the specific abnormality within the gland. This review comprehensively assesses the evidence for these differing approaches to surgical intervention in chronic pancreatitis. Surgical drainage procedures should be limited to a small number of patients with a dilated duct and no pancreatic head mass. Similarly, a small population presenting with a focal stricture and tail only disease may be successfully treated by distal pancreatectomy. Long-term results of both of these procedure types are poor, however. More impressive results have been yielded for the surgical treatment of the expanded head, for which a range of surgical options now exist. Evidence from level I studies and a recent meta-analysis suggests that duodenum-preserving resections offer benefits compared to pancreaticoduodenectomy, though the results of the ongoing, multicentre ChroPac trial are awaited to confirm this. Further data are also needed to determine which of the duodenum-preserving procedures provides optimal results. In relation to small duct/minimal change disease total pancreatectomy represents the only valid surgical option for the treatment of pain. Though previously dismissed as a valid treatment due to the resultant brittle diabetes, the advent of islet cell autotransplantation has enabled this procedure to produce excellent long-term results in relation to pain, endocrine status and quality of life. Given these excellent short- and long-term results of surgical therapy for chronic pancreatitis, and the poor symptom control provided by conservative and endoscopic treatment (coupled to near inevitable progression to exocrine and endocrine failure), it is likely that future years will see a further shift towards the earlier and more frequent surgical treatment of chronic pancreatitis. Furthermore, the expansion of islet cell autotransplantation to a wider range of pancreatic resections has the potential to even further improve the outcomes of surgical treatment for this problematic yet increasingly common disease.

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