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Surgery. 2008 Oct;144(4):645-51; discussion 651-3. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2008.06.008.

The palliative benefit of aggressive surgical intervention for both hepatic and mesenteric metastases from neuroendocrine tumors.

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University of Calgary, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.



Metastatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) can present with complications of gastrointestinal tract obstruction or ischemia and carcinoid syndrome (CS). The purpose of this study was to assess whether aggressive surgical intervention of metastatic NETs provides effective palliation from these symptoms.


Sixty-six patients with metastatic gastrointestinal tract NETs that presented with either CS and/or obstructive symptoms were retrospectively reviewed. All patients were managed according to a standardized protocol that involved initial surgical resection of regional and/or hepatic disease followed by appropriate medical therapy.


Symptoms of obstruction or ischemia were present in 24 patients (36%) and CS in 56 (85%). All patients with obstructive symptoms undergoing operative therapy had complete symptomatic relief. Hepatic cytoreduction was performed in 30 (45%). Overall symptoms of CS improved in 42 patients (75%); 86% of patients that underwent hepatic cytoreduction and 64% of those receiving medical therapy alone (P = .064). Postoperative morbidity was 22% with no mortality. Mean follow-up was 47 months (range, 6-156). Overall 5-year survival rate was 74%.


Surgical resection is highly effective in relieving symptoms of intestinal obstruction and ischemia. Hepatic cytoreduction seems to enhance the ability to control the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome. A surgically aggressive approach in patients with metastatic NETs provides effective palliation in carefully selected patients.

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