An evidence-based approach to the surgical management of resectable pancreatic adenocarcinoma

J Am Coll Surg. 2003 Jun;196(6):954-64. doi: 10.1016/S1072-7515(03)00010-3.


Background: Randomized prospective trials have addressed various treatment approaches to pancreatic adenocarcinoma in order to improve on the dismal prognosis associated with this disease. We conducted a comprehensive review of prospective randomized clinical trials and summarized the contemporary treatment of resectable pancreatic carcinoma.

Study design: A literature search strategy identified prospective randomized clinical trials for pancreatic carcinoma using standard medical subject heading terms. The articles were critically reviewed and ranked according to a standardized three-tiered system (Ia, Ib, Ic) by a panel of experts.

Results: Surgical studies have demonstrated that morbidity and mortality are similar for pylorus-preserving and classic pancreaticoduodenectomy. Extended retroperitoneal lymphadenectomy can be performed with similar mortality but increased morbidity compared with standard pancreaticoduodenectomy but does not prolong survival. Pancreaticogastrostomy and pancreaticojejunostomy appear to be comparable techniques for pancreatic duct reconstruction. Pancreatic-enteric anastomosis is associated with lower rates of pancreatic fistula and endocrine insufficiency than duct occlusion without anastomosis. Intraperitoneal drainage after pancreatic resection is unwarranted and may contribute to intraabdominal complications. Routine use of prophylactic octreotide does not lower the rate of pancreatic fistula; it should be considered for reoperative pancreatic resection or for a soft gland. Early trials found that adjuvant chemoradiation therapy prolongs survival. But in more recent studies chemoradiation after resection has failed to show a survival advantage over surgery alone.

Conclusions: Surgical resection remains the only potentially curative therapy for adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. There is no clear indication as to a single preferable resection approach.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy
  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Drainage
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Morbidity
  • Octreotide / therapeutic use
  • Pancreatectomy / adverse effects
  • Pancreatectomy / methods
  • Pancreatectomy / standards*
  • Pancreatic Fistula / etiology
  • Pancreatic Fistula / prevention & control
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy / adverse effects
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy / methods
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy / standards*
  • Pancreaticojejunostomy / adverse effects
  • Pancreaticojejunostomy / methods
  • Pancreaticojejunostomy / standards*
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Octreotide