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J Gastrointest Surg. 2009 Sep;13(9):1692-8. doi: 10.1007/s11605-009-0946-z. Epub 2009 Jun 23.

Small pancreatic and periampullary neuroendocrine tumors: resect or enucleate?

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202-5124, USA.



The aim of this study was to compare the outcomes of enucleation versus resection in patients with small pancreatic, ampullary, and duodenal neuroendocrine tumors (NETs).


Multi-institutional retrospective review identified all patients with pancreatic and peri-pancreatic NETs who underwent surgery from January 1990 to October 2008. Patients with tumors < or =3 cm and without nodal or metastatic disease were included.


Of the 271 patients identified, 122 (45%) met the inclusion criteria and had either an enucleation (n = 37) and/or a resection (n = 87). Enucleated tumors were more likely to be in the pancreatic head (P = 0.003) or functioning (P < 0.0001) and, when applicable, less likely to result in splenectomy (P = 0.0003). The rate of pancreatic fistula formation was higher after enucleation (P < 0.01), but the fistula severity tended to be worse following resection (P = 0.07). The enucleation and resection patients had similar operative times, blood loss, overall morbidity, mortality, hospital stay, and 5-year survival. However, for pancreatic head tumors, enucleation resulted in decreased blood loss, operative time, and length of stay compared to pancreaticoduodenectomy (P < 0.05).


These data suggest that most outcomes of enucleation and resection for small pancreatic and peri-pancreatic NETs are comparable. However, enucleation has better outcomes than pancreaticoduodenectomy for head lesions and the advantage of preserving splenic function for tail lesions.

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