Preoperative cholangitis is an independent risk factor for mortality in patients after pancreatoduodenectomy for pancreatic cancer

Am J Surg. 2021 Jan;221(1):134-140. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2020.07.025. Epub 2020 Aug 11.


Objectives: Preoperative biliary stenting is required for patients with obstructive jaundice from pancreatic adenocarcinoma who are receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy. While in most patients this approach results in durable biliary drainage, some patients develop cholangitis during neoadjuvant treatment. Further, several studies have shown that preoperative cholangitis in patients with hepatobiliary malignancies can result in substantially unfavorable outcomes. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of preoperative cholangitis in patients who underwent pancreaticoduodenectomy after completing neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

Methods: Participants: all adult patients (n = 449) diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma from January 1st, 2013 to March 31st, 2018 who pursued treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital were screened. Of these 449 patients, 97 met final inclusion criteria of receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy with intent to pursue curative surgery. Data were collected via retrospective chart review including baseline characteristics, survival, episodes of preoperative cholangitis, and surgical complications.

Results: In patients completing successful pancreaticoduodenectomy surgery, preoperative cholangitis is associated with increased mortality (HR 2.67, 95% CI:1.16-6.13). This finding is independent of postoperative outcomes or tumor recurrence rate. The presence of cholangitis did not impact completion of neoadjuvant chemotherapy (92% vs 85%, p = 0.5) or ability to proceed to surgery (76% vs 75%, p = 1.0). Preoperative cholangitis was not associated with postoperative morbidity (42.1% vs 45.1%, p = 1.0).

Conclusions: One episode of cholangitis during neoadjuvant chemotherapy is associated with increased mortality following successful pancreaticoduodenectomy, independent of immediate postoperative outcomes or tumor recurrence. Preoperative cholangitis does not affect ability to pursue neoadjuvant chemotherapy or complete successful surgery. Patients who develop cholangitis during the neoadjuvant chemotherapy treatment phase may reflect a distinct phenotype of patients with PDAC with a complex and more challenging clinical course.

Keywords: Biliary; Cholangitis; ERCP; Stenting; Whipple.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / complications*
  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality*
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery
  • Aged
  • Cholangitis / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / complications*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors