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Ann Surg. 1990 Apr;211(4):382-93.

The role of surgery in the management of acute pancreatitis.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, New York University Medical Center, NY 10016.


Surgical intervention in acute pancreatitis may have varied goals. Early laparotomy may be required for diagnostic purposes. There is, however, no convincing evidence that attempts to reduce the morbidity of severe pancreatitis by early operative pancreatic drainage, early formal pancreatic resection, or early biliary procedures have been effective. In fact, they may be harmful. Peritoneal lavage by catheter induced under local anesthesia may ameliorate early cardiovascular and respiratory complications in some patients. Preliminary experience suggests that early operative debridement of devitalized pancreatic tissue with postoperative lavage may be helpful in selected patients. Patients with infections of devitalized pancreatic or peripancreatic tissue require operative debridement and drainage or packing. Other complications such as colonic necrosis or pseudocysts also require operative treatment. Rarely do patients require operation to relieve protracted pancreatitis. Patients with gallstone-associated pancreatitis should usually undergo surgical correction of their cholelithiasis as soon as their pancreatitis has subsided.

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