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Surgical palliation of advanced pancreatic cancer.

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  • 1Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Virchow-Klinikum, Klinik für Allgemein-, Visceral- und Transplantationschirurgie, Germany.


In about 80% of patients with pancreatic cancer surgical resection is not feasible at the time of diagnosis. Therefore, palliative treatment plays a key role in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. The defined goals of palliative treatment are: reduction of symptoms, reduction of in-hospital stays, and an adequate control of pain. In patients with nonresectable pancreatic carcinoma the leading goal of palliative strategies should be the control of biliary and duodenal obstructions such as jaundice-associated pruritus or sustained nausea and vomiting due to gastric outlet obstruction. Although the role of endoscopy for palliation has been increasing, operative palliation is still indicated in selected cases. Obstructive jaundice is found in approximately 70% of patients suffering from carcinoma of the pancreatic head at diagnosis and has to be eliminated to avoid progressive liver dysfunction and liver failure. In up to 50% of patients with pancreatic cancer, clinical symptoms such as nausea and vomiting occur. For the treatment of malignant biliary obstructions in patients with pancreatic carcinoma, endoscopic biliary drainage is the option of first choice. In case of persistent stent-problems such as occlusion or recurrent cholangitis, a hepaticojejunostomy should be considered. The role of a prophylactic gastroenterostomy is still under discussion. In patients with combined biliary and gastric obstruction a combined bypass should be performed to avoid a second operation. The significance of laparoscopic biliary bypass is not yet clear. A surgical, minimally invasive approach for treating bile duct obstruction is not the standard nowadays. The role of surgical pain relief is mostly negligible today. Computed tomography (CT)- or EUS-guided celiac plexus neurolysis has replaced surgical intervention today. The significance of palliative resections is currently a controversial topic. However, beyond controlled randomized studies, a palliative pancreaticoduodenectomy in patients with advanced pancreatic carcinoma cannot be recommended at this time.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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