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Management of biliary and duodenal complications of chronic pancreatitis

Joseph D Vijungco, Richard A Prinz
World Journal of Surgery 2003, 27 (11): 1258-70
Biliary stricture and duodenal obstruction have been increasingly recognized as complications of chronic pancreatitis. The anatomical relationship of the distal common bile duct and the duodenum with the head of the pancreas is the main factor for their involvement in chronic pancreatitis. In hospitalized patients with pancreatitis, the incidence of biliary stricture and duodenal obstruction is reported to be about 6% and 1.2%, respectively. For patients requiring an operation for chronic pancreatitis the incidence increases to 35% for biliary stricture and 12% for duodenal obstruction. Fibrosis around the distal common bile duct can cause stenosis with obstruction of bile flow. Clinically, the presentation of these patients ranges from being asymptomatic with elevated alkaline phosphatase or bilirubin, or both, to being septic with cholangitis. Jaundice, cholangitis, hyperbilirubinemia, and persistent elevation of serum alkaline phosphatase occur more frequently in patients with pancreatitis with a biliary stricture. A twofold elevation of alkaline phosphatase is a marker of possible common duct stenosis in patients with chronic pancreatitis. The incidence of both biliary cirrhosis and cholangitis in these patients is about 10%. ERCP reveals a characteristic long, smoothly tapered stricture of the intrapancreatic common bile duct. In duodenal obstruction, the factors that convert self-limiting edema to chronic fibrosis and stricture formation are unknown, but ischemia superimposed on inflammation may be the major cause. These patients present with a prolonged history of nausea and vomiting. Barium studies typically show a long constricting lesion of the duodenum, and endoscopy reveals reactive inflammatory changes in a narrowed duodenum. Operation is indicated in patients with common bile duct strictures secondary to chronic pancreatitis when there is evidence of cholangitis, biliary cirrhosis, common duct stones, progression of stricture, elevation of alkaline phophatase and/or bilirubin for over a month, and an inability to rule out cancer. The operation of choice is either choledochoduodenostomy or choledochojejunostomy. A cholecystoenterostomy is less favored because of its higher failure rate (23%). Endoscopic stenting plays a role in patients who are unfit for surgery, but it is not recommended as definitive therapy. For duodenal obstruction, failure to resolve the obstruction with 1-2 weeks of conservative therapy is an indication for bypass. The operation of choice is a gastrojejunostomy. Not uncommonly, combined obstruction of the pancreatic duct, common bile duct, and duodenum will develop. Combined drainage procedures or resection are used to manage these problems.

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