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Length of Nonoperative Treatment and Risk of Pleural Empyema in the Management of Pancreatitis-induced Pancreaticopleural Fistula

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Pancreaticopleural fistula is a very uncommon complication of pancreatitis resulting from pancreatic duct disruption with leakage of pancreatic secretions into the pleural cavity. Initial conservative treatment fails in a significant number of cases. Ascending infection through the fistulous tract results in pleural empyema. The aim of this study is to investigate the relation between lengths of nonoperative management and risk of pleural empyema. The retrospective study includes our own experience as well as all case reports identified by a systematic review of the English literature from 1954 to 2012. Inclusion criteria were acute or chronic pancreatitis, whereas tumorous fistulization or complications of pancreatic surgery were kept out. A total of 113 patients were identified. There were 86 men and 27 women. The mean age was 46.5 years and 78 patients had a history of alcoholism. The mortality rate was 1.8 per cent (two of 113). Nonoperative management including interventional therapy and endoscopic stenting was successful in only 40 cases (36%), whereas 73 patients (64%) finally underwent surgery. The most common procedure was distal pancreatectomy (32 of 73). Pleural empyema occurred in 17 cases. Successful nonoperative management had a mean length of 5.5 weeks, whereas surgery was performed after an average of 10.9 weeks of failed conservative efforts. Initial nonoperative therapy was significantly longer in patients eventually sustaining empyema (17 weeks, P < 0.001) and all needed surgical intervention. Prolonged nonoperative treatment is associated with a noteworthy risk of septic complications such as pleural empyema. Further improvement seems achievable by reducing the time gap between fruitless conservative efforts and surgical intervention.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of General and Thoracic Surgery, Klinikum Nuremberg Nord, Nuremberg, Germany

Publication date: 01 June 2013

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