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Am J Med. 1987 May 29;82(5B):17-24.

Early surgical treatment of gastrinoma.


Medical treatment of the Zollinger-Ellison syndrome has been generally accepted because of the proven efficacy of the histamine (H2)-receptor antagonists in achieving symptomatic relief, and because of early reports indicating that few, if any, gastrinomas were resectable for cure. Gastrin radioimmunoassay (RIA) has made earlier and more certain diagnosis possible, and therefore reevaluation of the surgical management of gastrinomas is necessary. Experience with 60 gastrinoma patients is reported. Comparison between the pregastrin RIA years (before 1970) and post-gastrin RIA years was made to determine whether there was evidence to support the continuation of medical treatment without attempts to resect the gastrinoma. Twenty-five cases were diagnosed in the pre-RIA years. Age at diagnosis ranged from 17 to 68 years (median, 45 years). All patients were operated on. Metastases were found in 56 percent. No tumor was identified in 8 percent. Tumor was resected for "cure" (normal fasting gastrin levels for two years postoperatively) in one patient. Seventeen patients have died, and tumor was the cause of death in 70 percent. The five-year survival rate was 44 percent; the 10-year survival rate was 40 percent. Thirty-five cases were diagnosed after 1970. Age at diagnosis ranged from 39 to 61 years (median, 46 years). Thirty patients were operated on. Metastases were identified in 23 percent and no tumor was found in 17 percent. Tumor was resected for "cure" in 30 percent of patients. Seven patients have died and tumor caused death in 42 percent. The five-year survival rate was 82 percent; the 10-year rate was 64 percent. Advances in diagnosis and surgical technique since 1970 have made early operative treatment applicable in patients with gastrinoma. Because death in most cases is caused by progression of the tumor, an aggressive surgical approach to resect the tumor is advised soon after the diagnosis of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is established.

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