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BMC Cancer. 2008 Jan 14;8:5. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-8-5.

Resectable adenocarcinomas in the pancreatic head: the retroperitoneal resection margin is an independent prognostic factor.

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Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, 0027 Oslo, Norway.



The retroperitoneal margin is frequently microscopically tumour positive in non-curative periampullary adenocarcinoma resections. This margin should be evaluated by serial perpendicular sectioning. The aim of the study was to determine whether retroperitoneal margin involvement independently predicts survival after pancreaticoduodenectomy within a framework of standardized assessment of the resected specimens.


114 consecutive macroscopically margin-free periampullary adenocarcinomas were examined according to a prospective standardized protocol for histopathologic evaluation. The retroperitoneal margin was assessed by serial perpendicular sectioning. The periampullary cancer origin (pancreas, ampulla, distal bile duct or duodenum) was registered prospectively and reevaluated retrospectively. Associations between histopathologic factors were evaluated by Chi-square test, Fisher's exact test, Kruskal-Wallis test, and Mann-Whitney test, as appropriate. Survival curves were calculated by the Kaplan-Meier method and compared using the log-rank test. Associations between histopathologic factors and survival were also evaluated by unadjusted and adjusted Cox regression analysis, including stepwise variable selection, in order to identify factors that independently predict a poor prognosis after periampullary adenocarcinoma resections.


Microscopic resection margin involvement (R1 resection) was present in 40 tumours, of which 32 involved the retroperitoneal margin. Involvement of the retroperitoneal margin independently predicted a poor prognosis (p = 0.010; HR 1.89; CI 1.16-3.08) after presumed curative (R0 and R1) resection. In microscopically curative (R0) resections (n = 74), pancreatic tumour origin was the only factor that independently predicted a poor prognosis (p < 0.001; HR 4.71 for pancreatic versus ampullary; CI 2.13-10.4).


Serial perpendicular sectioning of the retroperitoneal resection margin demonstrates that tumour involvement of this margin independently predicts survival after pancreaticoduodenectomy for adenocarcinoma. Periampullary tumour origin is the only histopathologic factor that independently predicts survival in microscopically curative (R0) resections.

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