Can trainees safely perform pancreatoenteric anastomosis? A systematic review, meta-analysis, and risk-adjusted analysis of postoperative pancreatic fistula

Surgery. 2022 Jul;172(1):319-328. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2021.12.033. Epub 2022 Feb 25.


Background: The complexity of pancreaticoduodenectomy and fear of morbidity, particularly postoperative pancreatic fistula, can be a barrier to surgical trainees gaining operative experience. This meta-analysis sought to compare the postoperative pancreatic fistula rate after pancreatoenteric anastomosis by trainees or established surgeons.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was performed using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, with differences in postoperative pancreatic fistula rates after pancreatoenteric anastomosis between trainee-led versus consultant/attending surgeons pooled using meta-analysis. Variation in rates of postoperative pancreatic fistula was further explored using risk-adjusted outcomes using published risk scores and cumulative sum control chart analysis in a retrospective cohort.

Results: Across 14 cohorts included in the meta-analysis, trainees tended toward a lower but nonsignificant rate of all postoperative pancreatic fistula (odds ratio: 0.77, P = .45) and clinically relevant postoperative pancreatic fistula (odds ratio: 0.69, P = .37). However, there was evidence of case selection, with trainees being less likely to operate on patients with a pancreatic duct width <3 mm (odds ratio: 0.45, P = .05). Similarly, analysis of a retrospective cohort (N = 756 cases) found patients operated by trainees to have significantly lower predicted all postoperative pancreatic fistula (median: 20 vs 26%, P < .001) and clinically relevant postoperative pancreatic fistula (7 vs 9%, P = .020) rates than consultant/attending surgeons, based on preoperative risk scores. After adjusting for this on multivariable analysis, the risks of all postoperative pancreatic fistula (odds ratio: 1.18, P = .604) and clinically relevant postoperative pancreatic fistula (odds ratio: 0.85, P = .693) remained similar after pancreatoenteric anastomosis by trainees or consultant/attending surgeons.

Conclusion: Pancreatoenteric anastomosis, when performed by trainees, is associated with acceptable outcomes. There is evidence of case selection among patients undergoing surgery by trainees; hence, risk adjustment provides a critical tool for the objective evaluation of performance.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anastomosis, Surgical* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Pancreatic Fistula / epidemiology
  • Pancreatic Fistula / prevention & control
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy* / adverse effects
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Adjustment
  • Surgeons* / education