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Ann Surg. 1999 Jun;229(6):781-7; discussion 787-9.

Percutaneous drainage of pancreatic pseudocysts is associated with a higher failure rate than surgical treatment in unselected patients.

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Department of Surgery, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599-7210, USA.



The primary aim was to compare directly the effectiveness of percutaneous drainage versus surgical treatment of pancreatic pseudocysts in unselected patients. The authors also wished to identify factors that may predict a successful outcome with percutaneous drainage.


Pancreatic pseudocysts are a common complication of pancreatitis, and recent data suggest that many pseudocysts may be observed or treated successfully by percutaneous drainage. Failures with percutaneous drainage have been recognized increasingly, and a direct comparison of percutaneous and surgical treatment was initiated to identify factors that may affect outcome with these approaches.


A computerized index search of the medical records of patients with a diagnosis of pancreatic pseudocyst was performed from 1984 to 1995. One hundred seventy-three patients were identified retrospectively and assigned to treatment groups: observation (n = 41), percutaneous drainage (n = 66), or surgical treatment (n = 66). Data on demographics, clinical presentation, pseudocyst etiology and characteristics, diagnostic evaluation, management, and outcome were obtained. Treatment failure was defined as persistence of a symptomatic pseudocyst or the need for additional intervention other than the original treatment.


The etiology of pancreatitis, clinical presentation, and diagnostic evaluation did not differ between groups. Twenty-seven percent had documented chronic pancreatitis, and the etiology of pancreatitis was alcohol in 61% of patients. Mean pseudocyst size was 4.2 +/- 1 cm, 8.2 +/- 1.1 cm, and 7.4 +/- 1.3 cm in the observed, percutaneously treated, and surgically treated groups, respectively. Expectant treatment was successful in 93% of patients. Percutaneous drainage was successful in 42% of patients, whereas surgical treatment resulted in a success rate of 88%. Patients treated by percutaneous drainage had a higher mortality rate (16% vs. 0%), a higher incidence of complications (64% vs. 27%), and a longer hospital stay (45 +/- 5 days vs. 18 +/- 2 days) than patients treated by surgery. Eighty-seven percent of patients in whom percutaneous drainage failed required surgical salvage therapy. Multiple logistic regression analysis failed to reveal any factors significantly associated with a successful outcome after percutaneous drainage.


Percutaneous drainage results in higher mortality and morbidity rates and a longer hospital stay than surgical treatment of pancreatic pseudocysts. The clinical benefit of percutaneous drainage of pancreatic pseudocysts in unselected patients has not been realized, and the role of this treatment should be established in a clinical trial.

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