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Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2003 Sep;85(5):313-6.

Conservative treatment as an option in the management of pancreatic pseudocyst.

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Department of Surgery, Taunton & Somerset Hospital, Taunton, Somerset, UK.



Management of pancreatic pseudocysts is associated with considerable morbidity (15-25%). Traditionally, pancreatic pseudocysts have been drained because of the perceived risks of complications including infection, rupture or haemorrhage. We have adopted a more conservative approach with drainage only for uncontrolled pain or gastric outlet obstruction. This study reports our experience.


A consecutive series of 36 patients with pancreatic pseudocysts were treated over an 11-year period in one district general hospital serving a population of 310,000. This study group comprised of 19 men and 17 women with a median age of 55 years (range, 10-88 years). Twenty-two patients had a preceding attack of acute pancreatitis whilst 12 patients had clinical and radiological evidence of chronic pancreatitis. The aetiology comprised of gallstones (16), alcohol (5), trauma (2), tumour (2), hyperlipidaemia (1) and idiopathic (10).


All patients were initially managed conservatively and intervention, either by radiological-assisted external drainage or cyst-enteric drainage (by surgery or endoscopy), was only performed for persisting symptoms or complications. Patients treated conservatively had 6 monthly follow-up abdominal ultrasound scans (USS) for 1 year. Fourteen of the 36 patients (39%) were successfully managed conservatively, whilst 22 patients required intervention either by percutaneous radiological drainage (12), by endoscopic cystogastrostomy (1) or by open surgical cyst-enteric anastomosis (9). Median size of the pancreatic pseudocysts in the 14 patients managed conservatively (7 cm) was nearly similar to that of the 22 patients requiring intervention (8 cm). The most common indications for invasive intervention in the 22 patients were persistent pain (16), gastric outlet obstruction (4), jaundice (1) and dyspepsia with weight loss (1). Although one patient required surgery for persistent pain, no other patients required urgent or scheduled surgery for complications of untreated pancreatic pseudocysts. Two of the 12 patients treated by percutaneous radiological drainage had recurrence of pancreatic pseudocysts requiring surgery. Two patients developed an intra-abdominal abscess following cyst-enteric drainage of pancreatic pseudocysts and one patient had a pulmonary embolism. On the mean follow-up of 37.3 months, one patient with alcoholic pancreatitis died 5 months after surgical cyst-enteric bypass.


These results suggest that many patients with pancreatic pseudocysts can be managed conservatively if presenting symptoms can be controlled.

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