The feasibility of spleen-preserving pancreatectomy for end-stage chronic pancreatitis

S A White, C D Sutton, S Weymss-Holden, D P Berry, C Pollard, Y Rees, A R Dennison
American Journal of Surgery 2000, 179 (4): 294-7

BACKGROUND: It is considered difficult to preserve the spleen at the time of distal or total pancreas resection for chronic pancreatitis (CP). The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of preserving the spleen in patients requiring total or completion pancreatectomy for CP.

METHODS: All patients having total or completion pancreatectomy for CP were evaluated postoperatively in terms of morbidity, mortality, and pain relief. To assess splenic vascularity, all patients underwent abdominal ultrasound and power doppler imaging to assess splenic perfusion and the patency of the remaining splenic vessels.

RESULTS: Of 35 patients having total pancreatectomy, the spleen was preserved in 30 patients (19 women, 11 men; median age 40 years). The etiology of CP was mainly idiopathic (n = 14) or alcohol related (n = 12). All patients presented with chronic abdominal pain (median 5 years) requiring opiate-derived analgesia for pain relief. Fifteen patients (50%) had undergone previous therapeutic intervention for pain relief. The spleen was preserved with either an intact splenic artery and vein in 19 patients and or the short gastric vessels (n = 11). The mean duration of the procedure was 7 hours (range 5 to 11) and mean blood loss was 1,090 mL. The 30-day mortality was 3.8% (n = 1). Five patients had splenic complications (17%). These included splenectomy (n = 2), intrasplenic collection (n = 2), and a wedge splenic infarct (n = 1). Two of these complications were related to intrasplenic islet autotransplants. Follow-up with abdominal ultrasound and power doppler scanning showed no other abnormalities; blood flow was demonstrable in all patients with intact splenic arteries and vein (n = 19). The mean hospital stay was 25 days. Of the 24 patients who were beyond 6 months' follow-up, 82% (n = 20) have complete relief of pain, and 4 still require opiate analgesia.

CONCLUSIONS: Spleen-preserving pancreatectomy is a feasible procedure for chronic pancreatitis, providing complete pain relief in 80% of patients. When the splenic artery and vein cannot be preserved, there is a minimal risk of splenic complications that may require further treatment; but for the majority of patients, splenectomy is avoided.

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