Aims and background: Pancreatic carcinoma often involves the head of the pancreas and obstructive jaundice is its earliest sign. It sometimes extends to celiac plexus and duodenum causing pain and bowel obstruction respectively. Only 20% of cases are totally resectable (stage I) at the time of diagnosis. Palliative treatment is the only available therapeutic option when the tumor extends surrounding organs or has given lymphatic metastases (stage II, III, IV). The aim of this study is to evaluate effectiveness of interventional radiology procedures on unresectable cancer palliative treatment.
Methods: Between Jan 90 and Sep 98, 195 patients with unresectable pancreatic carcinoma received percutaneous treatments. They were 104 males and 91 females with mean age of 74 years (range, 48-95). One hundred eighty four patients underwent biliary drainage, six patients underwent celiac plexus block, two patients were treated by bowel stenting. Two patients received both biliary and bowel stents, one patient underwent biliary drainage and celiac plexus block.
Results: Jaundice treatment was performed by placement of drainage catheters in 48 patients, polymeric endoprostheses in 58 and metallic stents in 77 (67 Wallstents). Biliary drainage was successful in all cases obtaining appreciable bilirubin serum levels reduction and jaundice regression in 175 patients (95%). In 44 patients Wallstents were placed during a single PTC session time ("one step" technique). In 21 cases (11%) peri-procedural complications occurred. Follow-up related to 85 patients shows survival rate covered between 30 and 570 days (mean, 142). Best survival values occurred in patients who underwent "one step" technique. Celiac plexus block was successful in 5/7 cases (71%) with no complications, total pain relief and withdrawal of pharmacological treatment. Bowel stenting achieved complete recanalization of intestinal loop in 2 cases but showed troubles related to management of these patients.
Conclusions: In patients with unresectable pancreatic carcinoma palliation is the only therapeutic option and has the purpose to achieve biliary tree decompression and eliminate jaundice associated symptoms, improving quality of life and reducing hospitalization. Jaundice relief is reachable by surgical, endoscopic or percutaneous approach. Surgical palliation is characterized by disadvantageous cost-effectiveness rate. Endoscopic and percutaneous palliations are alternative, although, in selected patients, percutaneous Wallstents placement by one step technique is perhaps the most successful procedure, showing high rate of technical outcome with low complications and short time spent in hospital. Celiac plexus block under CT guidance constitutes a reliable method for management of pain. At present bowel stricture treatment is surgical.