Surgical Principles in the Management of Small Bowel Neuroendocrine Tumors

Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2020 Aug 29;21(11):88. doi: 10.1007/s11864-020-00784-2.


Small bowel neuroendocrine tumors (SB NETs) are increasing in frequency and becoming more common in surgical practice. It is often difficult to make the diagnosis of a SB NET at an early stage, as the primary tumor tends to be small and patients are asymptomatic until there is regional or distant metastasis, when they develop abdominal pain, partial obstruction, or bleeding and/or develop carcinoid syndrome. Despite this advanced presentation at the time of diagnosis, patients with metastatic SB NETs, as compared to other gastrointestinal malignancies, have favorable survival, which can be improved by appropriate surgical interventions. With the lack of randomized studies, there is reasonable controversy surrounding the optimal management of patients with SB NETs. As such, treatment of these patients is driven primarily by physician experience and available data based predominantly on retrospective studies. Based on this, current recommendations advocate for patients with SB NETs (localized or metastatic) to be managed at experienced centers by a multidisciplinary team. Eligible patients should undergo surgical resection of primary and regional disease as outlined in this article. Additionally, patients with metastatic disease should be evaluated on a case by case basis to evaluate surgical options that may mitigate bowel symptoms (i.e., pain, intestinal angina, obstruction) and carcinoid symptoms (flushing, diarrhea, hemodynamic instability) and prolong survival. Unlike other gastrointestinal malignancies, aggressive surgical management of these patients, even in the context of unresectable metastatic disease, can improve patients' symptoms and long-term survival. The principles outlined in this article are geared to guide appropriate management of SB NET patients with improvement in quality of life and overall survival outcomes.

Keywords: Mesenteric mass; Neuroendocrine tumors; Small bowel; Surgical management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoid Tumor / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoid Tumor / pathology
  • Carcinoid Tumor / secondary
  • Carcinoid Tumor / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / surgery
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Intestine, Small / diagnostic imaging
  • Intestine, Small / surgery*
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / diagnostic imaging
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / pathology
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / secondary
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / surgery*
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography