[Surgical treatment of gastric, enteric, and pancreatic endocrine tumors Part 1. Treatment of primary endocrine tumors]

J Chir (Paris). May-Jun 2005;142(3):132-49. doi: 10.1016/s0021-7697(05)80881-6.
[Article in French]


Endocrine tumors (ET) of the digestive tract (formerly called neuroendocrine tumors) are rare. They are classified into two principal types: gastrointestinal ET's (formerly called carcinoid tumors) which are the most common, and pancreaticoduodenal ET's. Functioning ET's secrete polypeptide hormones which cause characteristic hormonal syndromes. The management of ET is multidisciplinary. Poorly-differentiated ET's have a poor prognosis and are treated by chemotherapy. Surgical excision is the only curative treatment of well-differentiated ET's. The surgical goals are to: 1. prolong survival by resecting the primary tumor and any nodal or hepatic metastases, 2. control the symptoms related to hormonal secretion, 3. prevent or treat local complications. The most common sites of gastrointestinal ET's ( carcinoids) are the appendix and the rectum; these are often small (<1 cm), benign, and discovered fortuitously at the time of appendectomy or colonoscopic removal. Ileal ET's, even if small, are malignant, frequently multiple, and complicated in 30-50% of cases by bowel obstruction, mesenteric invasion, or bleeding. The carcinoid syndrome (consisting of abdominal pain, flushing, diarrhea, hypertension, bronchospasm, and right sided cardiac vegetations) is caused by the hypersecretion of serotonin into the systemic circulation; it occurs in 10% of cases and is usually associated with hepatic metastases. More than half of the cases of pancreatic ET are non-functional. They are usually malignant and of advanced stage at diagnosis presenting as a palpable or obstructing mass or as liver metastases. Insulinoma and gastrinoma (cause of the Zollinger-Ellison syndrome) are the most common functional ET's. 80% are sporadic; in these cases, tumor size, location, and malignant potential determine the type of resection which may vary from a simple enucleation to a formal pancreatectomy. In 10-20% of cases, pancreaticoduodenal ET presents in the setting of multiple endocrine neoplasia (NEM type I), an autosomal-dominant genetic disease with multifocal endocrine involvement of the pituitary, parathyroid, pancreas, and adrenal glands. For insulinoma with NEM-I, enucleation of lesions in the pancreatic head plus a caudal pancreatectomy is the most appropriate procedure. For gastrinoma with NEM-I, the benefit of surgical resection for tumors less than 2-3 cm in size is not clear. The lesions are frequently small, multiple, and widespread and recurrence is frequent after excision. The long-term prognosis is nevertheless fairly good. But the eventual development of liver metastases which are the most common cause of mortality still argues for an aggressive surgical approach in the early stages of the disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carcinoid Tumor / diagnosis
  • Carcinoid Tumor / surgery*
  • Carcinoma, Islet Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Islet Cell / surgery*
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / surgery*
  • Gastrinoma / diagnosis
  • Gastrinoma / surgery
  • Glucagonoma / diagnosis
  • Glucagonoma / surgery
  • Humans
  • Insulinoma / diagnosis
  • Insulinoma / surgery*
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Malignant Carcinoid Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Malignant Carcinoid Syndrome / surgery
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 1 / diagnosis
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 1 / surgery*
  • Pancreatectomy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Postoperative Care
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Prognosis
  • Somatostatinoma / diagnosis
  • Somatostatinoma / surgery
  • Stomach Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Stomach Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Vipoma / diagnosis
  • Vipoma / surgery
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / surgery*