Background: Endoscopic pancreatic sphincterotomy has been touted as effective therapy for chronic pancreatitis and unexplained abdominal pain resulting from pancreatic sphincter dysfunction. Although short-term data are encouraging, there are no reports on how these patients fare beyond the first few months.
Methods: We performed a retrospective review of records on all patients who had pancreatic sphincterotomy during a 4-year period between August 1992 and November 1996. Chronic pancreatitis was diagnosed by pancreatography. Patients were evaluated for symptomatic response to pancreatic sphincterotomy and clinical improvement was defined as greater than 50% reduction in the magnitude of pain.
Results: Fifty-five patients had pancreatic sphincterotomy including patients with (n = 40) and without (n = 15) chronic pancreatitis. After a median follow-up of 16 months, 60% of all patients reported improvement of pain scores (3.6 +/- 3.4 vs. 8.8 +/- 1.8; p < 0.01) with the best response in patients without evidence of chronic pancreatitis. Complications of pancreatic sphincterotomy included pancreatitis in 5 patients (9%), bleeding in 2 (3.6%) and early stent occlusion in 5 patients (9%). There were no deaths.
Conclusions: In a subgroup of patients with pancreatic sphincter dysfunction, endoscopic pancreatic sphincterotomy results in significant sustained clinical improvement.