Background: A major focus of palliation in patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer is pain control. The aim of this systematic review was to examine the efficacy and safety of neurolytic celiac plexus blockade (NCPB) compared with standard treatment in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer.
Methods: An electronic search was completed (1966 through August, 2005) for RCTs comparing NCPB versus control (standard treatment and/or sham NCPB) in patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer. The primary outcome was pain measured on a 10-point visual analogue scale (VAS). Secondary outcomes included opioid usage, adverse effects, quality of life (QOL), and survival. All outcomes were assessed at 2, 4, and 8 wk.
Results: Five RCTs involving 302 patients (NCPB, N = 147; control, N = 155) met the inclusion criteria. Mean age was 61.0 +/- 4.3 yr. Compared with control, NCPB was associated with lower VAS scores for pain at 2, 4, and 8 wk (weighted mean difference [WMD]-0.60, 95% CI -0.82 to -0.37). Opioid usage (in mg/d oral morphine) was also reduced at 2, 4, and 8 wk (WMD -85.9, 95% CI -144.0 to -27.9). NCPB was associated with a reduction in constipation (relative risk 0.67, 95% CI 0.49-0.91), but not other adverse events. No differences in survival were observed. QOL could not be adequately analyzed due to differences in outcome scales among studies.
Conclusions: In patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer, NCPB is associated with improved pain control, and reduced narcotic usage and constipation compared with standard treatment, albeit with minimal clinical significance.