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Ann Surg. 2005 Jan;241(1):85-91.

Delayed massive hemorrhage after pancreatic and biliary surgery: embolization or surgery?

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Department of Surgery, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



To analyze the management of delayed massive hemorrhage (DMH) after major pancreatic and biliary surgery.


Despite a decreased mortality rate for pancreatic and biliary surgery, DMH is still an important cause of postoperative mortality. The aim of the present study was to analyze the management of DMH after pancreatic and biliary surgery, and specifically to assess the role of embolization and surgical intervention.


The study group (SG) consisted of 1010 patients from 1994 to 2002 who underwent pancreatic or biliary surgery (cholecystectomy excluded). Patients from a previous study (1983-1993, n = 686) were used as a historical control group (HCG).


The incidence of DMH (SG 2.3% vs. HCG 3.2%) declined somewhat but did not differ significantly between both periods. The number of patients with a septic complication (SG 74% vs. HCG 50%) and a sentinel bleed (SG 78% vs. HCG 100%) before the onset of DMH did not differ significantly. Embolization (SG 2 of 2 patients vs. HCG 0 of 2 patients) was not used frequently. Successful outcome after surgical intervention (SG 14 of 16 patients vs. HCG 8 of 14 patients) and the surgical procedures performed to obtain hemostasis were comparable and overall mortality (SG 22% vs. HCG 29%) was comparable.


The incidence of DMH declined somewhat from 3.2% to 2.3% over the past years. Most patients present with septic complications and a sentinel bleed before onset of DMH. Despite general acceptance of embolization in our unit, it was used infrequently in patients with DMH. Aggressive surgical intervention was the treatment of choice in patients with DMH after pancreatic or biliary surgery.

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