Determinants of surgical resection for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors

J Hepatobiliary Pancreat Sci. 2015 Aug;22(8):610-7. doi: 10.1002/jhbp.224. Epub 2015 Mar 13.


Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs) include functioning and non-functional tumors. Functioning tumors consist of tumors that produce a variety of hormones and their clinical effects. Therefore, determinants of resection of pNETs should be discussed for each group of tumors. Less than 10% of insulinomas are malignant, therefore more than 90% of the cases can be cured by surgical resection. Lymphadenectomy is generally not necessary in insulinoma operation. If preoperative localization of the insulinoma is completed, enucleation from the pancreatic body or tail, and distal pancreatectomy can be performed safely by laparoscopy. When preoperative localization of a sporadic insulinoma is not confirmed, surgical exploration is needed. Intraoperative localization of a tumor, intraoperative insulin sampling and frozen section are required. The crucial purpose of surgical resection is to control inappropriate insulin secretion by removing all insulinomas. Gastrinomas are usually located in the duodenum or pancreas, which secrete gastrin and cause Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (ZES). Duodenal gastrinomas are usually small, therefore they are not seen on preoperative imaging studies or endoscopic ultrasound, and can be found only at surgery if a duodenotomy is performed. In addition, lymph node metastasis is found in 40-60% of cases. Therefore, the experienced surgeons should direct operation for gastrinomas. Surgical exploration with duodenotomy should be performed at a laparotomy. Other functioning pNETs can occur in the pancreas or in other locations. Curative resection is always recommended whenever possible after optimal symptomatic control of the clinical syndrome by medical treatment. Indications for surgery depend on clinical symptom control, tumor size, location, extent, malignancy and presence of metastasis. A lot of non-functioning pNETs are found incidentally according to the quality improvement of imaging techniques. Localized, small, malignant non-functioning pNETs should be operated on aggressively, while in possibly benign tumors smaller than 2 cm the surgical risk-benefit ratio should be carefully weighted. Surgical liver resection is generally proposed in curative intent to all patients with operable metastases from G1 or G2 pNET. The benefits of surgical resection of liver metastases have been demonstrated in terms of overall survival and quality of life. Complete resection is associated with better long-term survival.

Keywords: Distal pancreatectomy; Gastrinoma; Insulinoma; Non-functioning tumor; Pancreaticoduodenectomy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrinoma / surgery
  • Humans
  • Insulinoma / surgery
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 1 / surgery
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / surgery*
  • Pancreatectomy / methods
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery*