Pancreatic resections are associated with high morbidity (30% to 60%) and mortality (5%). Synthetic analogues of somatostatin are advocated by some surgeons to reduce complications following pancreatic surgery, however their use is controversial.
To determine whether prophylactic somatostatin analogues should be used routinely in pancreatic surgery.
We searched the Cochrane Upper Gastrointestinal and Pancreatic Diseases Group Trials Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2009, issue 4), MEDLINE, EMBASE and Science Citation Index Expanded to November 2009.
We included randomised controlled trials comparing prophylactic somatostatin or one of its analogues versus no drug or placebo during pancreatic surgery (irrespective of language or publication status).
Data collection and analysis
Two authors independently assessed trials for inclusion and independently extracted data. We analysed data with both the fixed-effect and the random-effects models using Review Manager (RevMan). We calculated the risk ratio (RR), mean difference (MD) or standardised mean difference (SMD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) based on an intention-to-treat or available case analysis. When it was not possible to perform either of the above, we performed per protocol analysis.
We identified 17 trials (of high risk of bias) involving 2143 patients. The overall number of patients with postoperative complications was lower in the somatostatin analogue group (RR 0.71; 95% CI 0.62 to 0.82) but there was no difference in the perioperative mortality, re-operation rate or hospital stay between the groups. The incidence of pancreatic fistula was lower in the somatostatin analogue group (RR 0.64; 95% CI 0.53 to 0.78). The proportion of these fistulas that were clinically significant was not mentioned in most trials. On inclusion of trials that clearly distinguished clinically significant fistulas, there was no difference between the two groups (RR 0.69; 95% CI 0.34 to 1.41). Subgroup analysis revealed a shorter hospital stay in the somatostatin analogue group than the controls for patients with malignant aetiology (MD -7.57; 95% CI -11.29 to -3.84).
Somatostatin analogues reduce perioperative complications but do not reduce perioperative mortality. In those undergoing pancreatic surgery for malignancy, they shorten hospital stay. Further adequately powered trials with low risk of bias are necessary. Based on the current available evidence, somatostatin and its analogues are recommended for routine use in patients undergoing pancreatic resection for malignancy. There is currently no evidence to support their routine use in pancreatic surgeries performed for other indications.