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Total Pancreatectomy for the Treatment of Chronic Pancreatitis: Indications, Outcomes, and Recommendations

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Total pancreatectomy (TP) for chronic pancreatitis (CP) has not gained widespread acceptance because of concerns regarding technical complexity, diabetic complications, and uncertainty with respect to long-term pain relief. Records of patients having TP from 1997 to 2005 were reviewed. Patient presentation, etiology of disease, and the indication for TP were examined. Operative results were analyzed. Long-term results were critically assessed, including narcotic usage and the need for re-admission. Postoperative quality of life (QOL) was assessed by the SF-36 health survey. During the study period, 7 patients with CP had TP, and 28 had other operations. The etiology of CP was alcohol in four and hereditary pancreatitis in three. The indication for surgery was pain and weight loss. Preoperatively, all patients used narcotics chronically and two had insulin-dependent diabetes. Four had TP after failed previous surgical procedures. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography and computed tomography demonstrated small ducts and atrophic calcified glands. The mean length of the operation was 468 minutes, and only two patients required transfusion. There were no biliary anastomotic complications. The mean length of stay was 14 days. Major morbidity was limited to a single patient with a leak from the gastrojejunal anastomosis. Thirty-day mortality was zero, with one late death unrelated to the surgical procedure or diabetes. The mean length of follow-up was 46 months. All patients remained alcohol and narcotic free. No patient was readmitted with a diabetic complication. When compared with the general population, QOL scores were diminished but reasonable. We conclude that TP is indicated in hereditary pancreatitis and in those with an atrophic, calcified pancreas with small duct disease; that TP is technically arduous but can be completed with very low morbidity and mortality; and that on long-term follow-up, pain relief and abstinence from alcohol and narcotics was excellent with an acceptable QOL.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: From the Department of Surgery, University of Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee

Publication date: 01 April 2006

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  • The Southeastern Surgical Congress owns and publishes The American Surgeon monthly. It is the official journal of the Congress and the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, which all members receive each month. The journal brings up to date clinical advances in surgical knowledge in a popular reference format. In addition to publishing papers presented at the annual meetings of the associated organizations, the journal publishes selected unsolicited manuscripts. If you have a manuscript you'd like to see published in The American Surgeon select "Information for Authors" from the Related Information options below. A Copyright Release Form must accompany all manuscripts submitted.
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