Background: The management of pain in patients with chronic pancreatitis is difficult. The aim of this prospective study was to evaluate the early and long-term pain relief provided by bilateral thoracoscopic splanchnicectomy.
Methods: From August 1995 to August 1999, 44 patients with chronic pancreatitis underwent bilateral thoracoscopic splanchnicectomy. Data were collected prospectively. Thirty-six patients required opioids. Pain intensity was registered before operation and at regular intervals after surgery by means of a visual analogue scale (VAS). Use of analgesics (opioids; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen; no analgesics or aminocetophen) was noted before and after splanchnicectomy. Median follow-up was 36 (range 12-60) months.
Results: The procedure was technically successful in 40 patients. Thirty-six patients had no complications. Eleven of 24 patients who have been followed up for 24 months or more had a significantly reduced VAS score at 2 years (median (range) 8.5 (7-10) versus 2.5 (0-5); P < 0.01). The cumulative rate of pain relief was 46 per cent 48 months after splanchnicectomy.
Conclusion: Bilateral thoracoscopic splanchnicectomy alleviated pain in patients with chronic pancreatitis. It was associated with a low morbidity rate and no deaths. Pain eventually recurred in approximately 50 per cent.