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Am J Surg. 2001 May;181(5):411-5.

A pancreatic ductal leak should be sought to direct treatment in patients with acute pancreatitis.

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Department of General Surgery, Virginia Mason Medical Center, 1100 Ninth Ave, C6-GSURG, Seattle, WA 98111, USA.



The end result of leakage of pancreatic juice into the peripancreatic space can be sterile necrosis, infected necrosis, or rupture into an adjacent hollow viscus or blood vessel (eg, colon, small bowel, or pseudoaneurysm). If a pancreatic duct (PD) leak is present, should treatment be aimed at minimizing the sequela of the leakage of pancreatic juice and not just supportive observation until a necrosectomy is required?


In 144 patients with severe pancreatitis we investigated whether the presence of a PD leak was associated with necrosis and also asked if PD leak might predict other outcomes such as a length of stay (LOS), mortality, and need for surgery. Furthermore, we questioned whether the use of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to search for a PD leak might worsen the clinical outcome because of the potential for introducing microorganisms into an undrained space or exacerbating pancreatitis.


The presence of a demonstrable pancreatic duct leak was observed in 37% of patients and was significantly associated with both a higher incidence of necrosis and prolonged LOS (> or = 20 days). These patients were 3.4 times more likely to have necrosis and 2.6 times more likely to have a prolonged LOS. When treated with a combination of percutaneous drains, pancreatic duct stents, and surgery as necessary, a PD leak (even with its higher necrosis rate) was not significantly correlated with either mortality or the need for necrosectomy. The use of ERCP was not associated with LOS, mortality, or the need for necrosectomy, provided discovered PD leaks were immediately drained.


A PD leak is common in patients with pancreatic necrosis but it is also important to locate and decompress in order to impede progression of the disease and keep mortality low.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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