Background: In patients operated on for severe acute pancreatitis (SAP) the impact of the timing of operation on outcome is controversial.
Materials and methods: In a retrospective analysis of a prospectively documented database, we studied 250 patients suffering from SAP, who were in need for surgical treatment during their course of disease.
Results: From 1982 to 1998, 250 patients with the diagnosis of SAP who required operative treatment were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) of a university hospital. The mean APACHE II score on the day of admission was 16.1 (8-35). One hundred eighty-five patients (74%) required reoperation, of whom 111 patients (60%) underwent reoperation on demand and 74 (40%) patients a pre-planned reoperation. Overall mortality was 38.8% (97 patients). In patients who were operated during the first three weeks after onset of disease, mortality was significantly higher than in patients who were operated after three weeks (46% vs. 25%, p < 0.01). Besides patient age (p < 0.05), APACHE II score at admission (p < 0.01), multiple organ dysfunction (p < 0.01), infection of pancreatic necrosis (p < 0.05), surgical control of pancreatic necrosis (p < 0.0001), and the time of surgical intervention (p < 0.05) determined survival significantly.
Conclusion: Patients who were operated later than three weeks after onset of disease had a significantly better outcome. In patients suffering from SAP who required surgical treatment, the timing of operation is crucial for survival.