Background: Accurate preoperative staging is essential in pancreatic cancer to select the 15% of patients who can benefit from surgery and avoid surgery in the 85% with advanced disease. With improvements in computed tomography (CT) scanning, the value of routine laparoscopy for preoperative staging of pancreatic cancer has been questioned because it changes the preoperative plan in less than 20% of unselected cases.
Methods: We retrospectively reviewed our experience with preoperative staging in 88 consecutive patients with pancreatic cancer. All patients had preoperative CT scans, and selective criteria were used to determine which patients would also undergo preoperative staging laparoscopy. Patients were categorized preoperatively as resectable or not resectable (locally advanced or metastatic). Medical records, operative, and pathology reports were reviewed to determine the accuracy of preoperative predictions.
Results: Thirty patients were deemed resectable based on CT alone and 27 (90%) were resected (25 R0, 2 R1). Two (7%) had metastatic disease discovered at laparotomy and one (3%) had a R2 resection. Only 19 patients (39%) of 49 patients deemed resectable by CT met our selective criteria for preoperative staging laparoscopy. Laparoscopy changed the treatment plan in 11 (58%) of these patients. Eight were still deemed resectable after staging laparoscopy and 7 (88%) were resected (6 R0, 1 R1). One patient (12%) had metastatic disease diagnosed at laparotomy. If selective staging laparoscopy were eliminated from our algorithm, 49 patients would have been deemed potentially resectable based on CT alone, 34 (69%) would have been found to be resectable at laparotomy (31 R0, 3 R1), and 15 (31%) would have been found to be unresectable at laparotomy (positive predictive value of 69%). The addition of selective staging laparoscopy avoided unnecessary laparotomy in 11 patients and increased the positive predictive value to (34/38) 89%.
Conclusion: Selective use of laparoscopy increases the positive predictive value of preoperative staging in pancreatic cancer and avoids unnecessary laparoscopy in the majority of patients.