Objective: A randomized, controlled, multicenter trial was undertaken in 102 patients with objective evidence of severe acute pancreatitis to evaluate whether selective decontamination reduces mortality.
Summary background data: Secondary pancreatic infection is the major cause of death in patients with acute necrotizing pancreatitis. Controlled clinical trials to study the effect of selective decontamination in such patients are not available.
Methods: Between April 22, 1990 and April 19, 1993, 102 patients with severe acute pancreatitis were admitted to 16 participating hospitals. Patients were entered into the study if severe acute pancreatitis was indicated, on admission, by multiple laboratory criteria (Imrie score > or = 3) and/or computed tomography criteria (Balthazar grade D or E). Patients were randomly assigned to receive standard treatment (control group) or standard treatment plus selective decontamination (norfloxacin, colistin, amphotericin; selective decontamination group). All patients received full supportive treatment, and surveillance cultures were taken in both groups.
Results: Fifty patients were assigned to the selective decontamination group and 52 were assigned to the control group. There were 18 deaths in the control group (35%), compared with 11 deaths (22%) in the selective decontamination group (adjusted for Imrie score and Balthazar grade: p = 0.048). This difference was mainly caused by a reduction of late mortality (> 2 weeks) due to significant reduction of gram-negative pancreatic infection (p = 0.003). The average number of laparotomies per patient was reduced in patients treated with selective decontamination (p < 0.05). Failure of selective decontamination to prevent secondary gram-negative pancreatic infection with subsequent death was seen in only three patients (6%) and transient gram-negative pancreatic infection was seen in one (2%). In both groups of patients, all gram-negative aerobic pancreatic infection was preceded by colonization of the digestive tract by the same bacteria.
Conclusion: Reduction of gram-negative colonization of the digestive tract, preventing subsequent pancreatic infection by means of selective decontamination, significantly reduces morbidity and mortality in patients with severe acute necrotizing pancreatitis.