Background: Recent reports suggest an improved survival following resection for patients with pancreatic carcinoma. However, the prognosis for patients with lymph nodes metastases remains uncertain. The purpose of this study was to determine if the presence of lymph node metastases significantly alters survival in patients with otherwise potentially curable pancreatic carcinoma.
Patients and methods: Between 1970 and 1995, 401 patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma, including 327 patients with pancreatic head tumors, were evaluated and treated.
Results: One hundred (31%) patients underwent pancreatoduodenectomy. Operative mortality was 3% and morbidity was 22%. Median survival for 97 patients discharged from the hospital following resection was 14 months (range 2 to 293). The estimated 1-, 2-, and 5-year survivals were 61%, 43%, and 20%, respectively. Median survival was 11.5 months (range 2 to 87) for patients with positive lymph nodes (n = 56) and 24 (range 0 to 293) months for patients with negative lymph nodes (n = 41; P = 0.0003). Ten patients (10%) survived longer than 5 years, and 9 (90%) of them had negative lymph nodes. Elderly patients (> or = 70 years) had a median survival twice as long as younger patients (24 versus 12 months, P = 0.03).
Conclusions: Lymph node metastases are found in 56% of patients undergoing resection. Pancreatoduodenectomy can be performed with low operative mortality in patients of all ages. It offers good palliation for patients with lymph nodes metastases and encouraging long-term survival rates as well as a chance for cure in patients with negative lymph nodes.