Pancreatic anastomotic leak after pancreaticoduodenectomy: Incidence, significance, and management

Joseph J. Cullen, Michael G. Sarr, Duane M. Ilstrup

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322 Scopus citations


Anastomotic leak at the panereaticojejunostomy remains a common and dreaded complication after pancreaticoduodenectomy. Our aim was to determine the incidence, presentation, methods of management, and preoperative and postoperative factors that influence the clinical outcome. We reviewed our collective experience with 375 consecutive patients undergoing pancreaticoduodenectomy from 1980 to 1992 for a variety of pathologic indications. Clinical, biochemical, intraoperative, and postoperative factors were reviewed in an attempt to determine prognostic factors. Sixty-six patients (18%) developed a pancreatic anastomotic leak as determined by increased amylase in drainage fluid (44%), radiographic documentation (41%), operative re-exploration (9%), or percutaneous drainage of a peripancreatic, amylase-containing fluid collection (6%). Most leaks (73%) were clinically insignificant and were managed by simple maintenance of intraoperatively placed drains. Active intervention was required in 18 patients (27%) and included percutaneous drainage in 8, completion pancreatectomy in 7, and reoperative drainage with or without anastomotic repair in 3. Although octreotide was used therapeutically in 13 patients (20%), a significant, objective response was noted in only 1 patient. Five (8%) of the 66 patients died, all related directly to the pancreatic leak. The overall operative mortality was lower, 15 (4%) of 375 patients. Of the clinical, biochemical, intraoperative, and postoperative factors reviewed to determine prognostic factors, only postoperative intra-abdominal hemorrhage predisposed the patient to mortality as a result of the pancreatic anastomotic leak. We conclude that most anastomotic leaks at the pancreaticojejunostomy after pancreaticoduodencetomy can be managed conservatively. Use of octreotide to aid in closure of the pancreatic leak was disappointing, whereas patients with postoperative intra-abdominal hemorrhage or those requiring completion pancreatectomy to manage the anastomotic leak have increased mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-298
Number of pages4
JournalThe American Journal of Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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