Significance of peritoneal cytology in patients with potentially resectable adenocarcinoma of the pancreatic head

Surgery. 1995 Sep;118(3):472-8. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6060(05)80361-7.


Background: Recurrence in the peritoneum occurs in up to 50% of patients after a potentially curative pancreaticoduodenectomy. Previous authors have implicated preoperative fine-needle aspiration (FNA) as a cause of intraperitoneal tumor dissemination, although prior studies of peritoneal cytology findings have largely involved patients with locally advanced disease.

Methods: A consecutive series of patients referred to our institution between 1991 and 1993 with suspected or biopsy-proven adenocarcinoma of the pancreatic head was studied prospectively. All patients fulfilled criteria for resectability as assessed by computed tomography: no metastatic disease, no encasement of the superior mesenteric or hepatic arteries, and a patent superior mesenteric-portal venous confluence. Peritoneal washings were obtained at the time of staging laparoscopy and/or at subsequent laparotomy. Data regarding peritoneal cytology results, previous FNA, preoperative chemoradiation, eventual resection, pattern of disease recurrence, and survival were collected.

Results: A total of 80 peritoneal washings from 60 consecutive patients were prospectively examined. Forty-nine (82%) of 60 patients underwent FNA before peritoneal washings were obtained. A total of four patients (7%) had positive peritoneal cytology findings: three (6%) of 49 who underwent prior FNA and one (9%) of 11 with no prior FNA. Similarly, no differences in eventual peritoneal failure or short-term survival were observed for patients who underwent prior FNA compared with patients who did not. All four patients with positive peritoneal cytology findings had metastatic disease (liver, three; peritoneum, one) at a median of 4.8 months after diagnosis; three of the four died of disease at a median of 8 months.

Conclusions: Positive peritoneal cytology findings are rare in patients with radiologically resectable adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. When found, positive peritoneal washings are an indicator of advanced disease characterized by unresectability, early metastasis, and short survival. Computed tomographic-guided FNA does not appear to increase the risk for positive peritoneal washings and represents a valid approach to the pretreatment diagnosis of patients with suspected pancreatic malignancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Humans
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Peritoneum / pathology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed