Objective: This study was set up to identify patient-related factors favoring the application of either surgery or endoprostheses in the palliation of obstructive jaundice in subsets of patients with cancer of the head of the pancreas or periampullary region.
Summary background data: In the palliation of obstructive jaundice, surgical biliodigestive anastomosis has traditionally been performed. Surgical biliary bypass is associated with high mortality (15% to 30%) and morbidity rates (20% to 60%) but little recurrent obstructive jaundice (0% to 15%). Biliary drainage with endoscopically placed endoprostheses has a lower complication rate, but recurrent obstructive jaundice is seen in up to 20% to 50% of patients.
Methods: Patients with advanced cancer of the head of the pancreas or periampullary region treated at the University Hospital Dijkzigt, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, between 1980 and 1990 were reviewed. In 148 patients, data were compared concerning the morbidity and hospital stay after the palliation of obstructive jaundice with endoscopic endoprostheses or surgical biliary bypasses. These patients were stratified for long (> 6 months) and short (< 6 months) survival times.
Results: In short-term survivors, the higher late morbidity rates after endoprostheses were offset by higher early morbidity rates and longer hospital stays after the surgical bypass. In long-term survivors, there was no difference in the hospital stay between the two groups, but the late morbidity rate was significantly higher in the endoprosthesis group.
Conclusions: These data suggest that endoscopic endoprosthesis is the optimal palliation for patients surviving less than 6 months and surgical biliary bypass for those surviving more than 6 months. This policy necessitates the development of prognostic criteria, which were obtained by Cox proportional-hazards survival analysis. Advanced age, male sex, liver metastases, and large diameters of tumors were unfavorable prognostic factors. With these factors, the risk of short- or long-term survival can be predicted. It is hoped that the application of these data may allow a rational approach toward optimal palliative treatment of this form of malignant obstructive jaundice.