Objective: To define a simple and reproducible classification of complications following pancreaticoduodenectomy (PD) based on a therapy-oriented severity grading system.
Background: While mortality is rare after PD, morbidity rates remain high. The lack of standardization in evaluating morbidity after PD has severely hampered meaningful comparisons over time and among centers. We adapted a novel classification of complication to stratify morbidity by severity after PD, to test whether the incidence of pancreatic fistula has changed over time, and to identify risk factors in a single North American center.
Methods: The classification was applied to a consecutive series of 633 patients undergoing PD between February 2003 and August 2005. Another series of 141 patients treated between 1987 and 1990 was also analyzed to identify changes in the incidence and severity of fistula. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to link respective complications with preoperative and intraoperative parameters, length of hospital stay, and long-term survival.
Results: A total of 263 (41.5%) patients did not develop any complication, while 370 (58.5%) had at least one complication; 62 (10.0%) patients had only grade I complications (no need for specific intervention), 192 patients (30.0%) had grade II (need for drug therapy such as antibiotics), 85 patients (13.5%) had grade III (need for invasive therapy), and 19 patients (3.0%) had grade IV complications (organ dysfunction with ICU stay). Grade V (death) occurred in 12 patients (2.0%). A total of 57 patients (9.0%) developed pancreatic fistula, of which 33 (58.0%) were classified as grade II, 17 (30.0%) as grade III, 5 (9.0%) as grade IV, and 2 (3.5%) as grade V. Delayed gastric emptying was documented in 80 patients (12.7%); half of them were scored as grade II and the other half as grade III. A significant decrease in the incidence of fistula was observed between the 2 periods analyzed (14.0% vs. 9.0%, P < 0.001), mostly due to a decrease in grade II fistula. Cardiovascular disease was a risk factor for overall morbidity and complication severity, while texture of the gland and cardiovascular disease were risk factors for pancreatic fistula.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates the applicability and utility of a new classification in grading complications following pancreatic surgery. This novel approach may provide a standardized, objective, and reproducible assessment of pancreas surgery enabling meaningful comparison among centers and over time.