Thoracoscopic Splanchnicectomy for Chronic, Severe Pancreatic Pain

Semin Laparosc Surg. 1996 Mar;3(1):29-33. doi: 10.1053/SLAS00300029.


Fourteen patients with pancreatic cancer, 2 with cancer of the papilla of Vater, and 14 with chronic pancreatitis were operated on with bilateral thoracoscopic splanchnicectomy caused by severe chronic pain. The median follow-up time was 13 months. Twenty patients were followed up for 3 months and 14 for at least 6 months. The surgical results were evaluated prospectively, both with visual analogue scale (VAS) and with documentation of the consumption of analgesics at elective follow-up after 1 week and 1, 3, 6, and 12 months postoperatively. All 30 patients stated that the characteristics of their pain had changed at recovery from anaesthesia, but only 6 of them reported immediate complete pain relief. All but 1 of the 14 patients with chronic pancreatitis had clearly reduced pain as evaluated by VAS 1 month after the operation, and this beneficial effect remained for the whole study period. Furthermore, the need for analgesics decreased. Also, in the 16 patients with cancer, there was on average a marked relief of pain from 1 week and onwards. The 6 cancer patients with survival more than 3 months had reduced pain for the remaining period of their lives. It seems that the final pain relief is persistent as is the reduced consumption of analgesics. There was no correlation between the number of cut nerves and pain relief as evaluated by VAS. Three patients were reoperated on for intrathoracic bleeding the evening after the operation, and one had transient pain located to one of the port sites. Otherwise, there were no postoperative complications. The operation time was short and the length of hospital stay in most patients was 24 hours or less. It was concluded that thoracoscopic splanchnicectomy appears to be a promising and relatively simple treatment for severe chronic pancreatic pain. Further studies are needed to establish its role in the management of intractable pancreatic pain.