Background: Long-term functional outcome after operative treatment of necrotizing pancreatitis (NP) has not been studied extensively.
Methods: Pancreatic function, performance status, recurrence of symptoms and other related problems were analysed in 44 consecutive patients successfully discharged from hospital after operative necrosectomy (1983-1995) and followed up completely for a mean of 5 years.
Results: Clinical pancreatic insufficiency developed in half the patients. Diabetes mellitus (11 patients), steatorrhoea (six) or both (five) were associated with a mean estimate of 52, 66 and 67 per cent parenchymal necrosis respectively. Normal pancreatic function was associated with 27 per cent parenchymal necrosis (P < 0.05). Diabetes worsened while steatorrhoea tended to improve over time. Abdominal pain and pancreatitis recurred in six and two patients respectively. Performance status worsened in four patients because of recurrent pancreatitis and severe steatorrhoea. Poor long-term performance was associated with a higher Acute Physiology And Chronic Health Evaluation II score on admission (mean 14 versus 9).
Conclusion: NP has prominent effects on long-term pancreatic exocrine and endocrine function in half the patients, but most preserve a good overall functional status. The development of pancreatic insufficiency varies with the extent of pancreatic parenchymal necrosis.