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J Gastrointest Surg. 2008 Nov;12(11):1915-23. doi: 10.1007/s11605-008-0619-3. Epub 2008 Aug 7.

Incidence and management of chyle leaks following pancreatic resection: a high volume single-center institutional experience.

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Department of Surgery, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.



No data on incidence, management, or natural history of chyle leaks following pancreatic resection have been published. We sought to identify possible risk factors associated with chyle leaks following pancreatic resection, as well as determine the natural history of this rare complication.


Between 1993 and 2008, 3,532 patients underwent pancreatic resection at a single institution. Data on demographics, operative details, primary tumor status, and chyle leak were collected. To identify risk factors associated with chyle leak, a matched 3:1 paired analysis was performed.


Of 3,532 patients undergoing pancreatic resection, 47 (1.3%) developed a chyle leak (n = 34, contained chyle leak versus n = 13, diffuse chylous ascites). Chyle leak was identified at median 5 days following surgery. Median drain triglyceride levels were 592 ng/dl. After matching on tumor size, disease etiology, and resection type, the number of lymph nodes harvested and history of concomitant vascular resection predicted higher risk of chyle leak (both P < 0.05). Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) was required in more patients with chylous ascites (92.3%) than those with chyle leaks (44.1%) (P = 0.003). The median time to resolution was shorter for contained chyle leaks (13 days) versus chylous ascites (36 days) (P < 0.001). Patients with chylous ascites tended to have shorter overall survival (3-year, 18.8%) versus patients with no chyle leak (3-year, 46.9%) (P = 0.12). In contrast, patients with a contained chyle leak had a similar survival as patients with no chyle leak (3-year, 53.4% versus 46.9%, respectively) (P = 0.32).


Chyle leak was a rare (1.3%) complication following pancreatic resection that was associated with number of lymph nodes harvested and concomitant vascular resection. In general, chyle leaks were successfully managed with TPN with no adverse impact on outcome. Patients with chylous ascites, however, had a more protracted clinical course and tended to have a worse long-term survival.

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