Surgeon experience contributes to improved outcomes in pancreatoduodenectomies at high risk for fistula development

Surgery. 2021 Apr;169(4):708-720. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2020.11.022. Epub 2020 Dec 30.


Background: Pancreatoduodenectomies at high risk for clinically relevant pancreatic fistula are uncommon, yet intimidating, situations. In such scenarios, the impact of individual surgeon experience on outcomes is poorly understood.

Methods: The fistula risk score was applied to identify high-risk patients (fistula risk score 7-10) from 7,706 pancreatoduodenectomies performed at 18 international institutions (2003-2020). For each case, surgeon pancreatoduodenectomy career volume and years of practice were linked to intraoperative fistula mitigation strategy adoption and outcomes. Consequently, best operative approaches for clinically relevant pancreatic fistula prevention and best performer profiles were identified through multivariable analysis models.

Results: Eight hundred and thirty high-risk pancreatoduodenectomies, performed by 64 surgeons, displayed an overall clinically relevant pancreatic fistula rate of 33.7%. Clinically relevant pancreatic fistula rates decreased with escalating surgeon career pancreatoduodenectomy (-49.7%) and career length (-41.2%; both P < .001), as did transfusion and reoperation rates, postoperative morbidity index, and duration of stay. Great experience (≥400 pancreatoduodenectomies performed or ≥21-year-long career) was a significant predictor of clinically relevant pancreatic fistula prevention (odds ratio 0.52, 95% confidence interval 0.35-0.76) and was more often associated with pancreatojejunostomy reconstruction and prophylactic octreotide omission, which were both independently associated with clinically relevant pancreatic fistula reduction. A risk-adjusted performance analysis also correlated with experience. Moreover, minimizing blood loss (≤400 mL) significantly contributed to clinically relevant pancreatic fistula prevention (odds ratio 0.40, 95% confidence interval 0.22-0.74).

Conclusion: Surgeon experience is a key contributor to achieve better outcomes after high-risk pancreatoduodenectomy. Surgeons can improve their performance in these challenging situations by employing pancreatojejunostomy reconstruction, omitting prophylactic octreotide, and minimizing blood loss.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Clinical Competence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pancreatic Fistula / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Fistula / epidemiology*
  • Pancreatic Fistula / etiology*
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy / adverse effects*
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy / methods
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Quality of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgeons*