Pancreatic resections can be performed with great safety. However, the morbidity rate is reported to be 40–60 per cent with a high prevalence of pancreatic complications. The aim of this study was to analyse complications after pancreatic head resection, with particular attention to morbidity and pancreatic fistula.
From November 1993 to May 1999, perioperative and postoperative data from 331 consecutive patients undergoing pancreatic head resection were recorded prospectively. Data were analysed and grouped according to the procedure performed: classic Whipple resection, pylorus-preserving pancreatoduodenectomy (PPPD) or duodenum-preserving pancreatic head resection (DPPHR).
Pancreatic head resection had a mortality rate of 2·1 per cent; the difference in mortality rate between the three groups (0·9–3·0 per cent) was not significant. Total and local morbidity rates were 38·4 and 28 per cent respectively. DPPHR had a lower morbidity, both local and systemic, than pancreatoduodenectomy. The prevalence of pancreatic fistula was 2·1 per cent in 331 patients, and was not dependent on the procedure or the aetiology of the disease. Reoperations were performed in 3·9 per cent of patients, predominantly for bleeding and non-pancreatic fistula. None of the patients with pancreatic fistula required reoperation or died in the postoperative course.
A standardized technique and a continuing effort to improve perioperative management may be responsible for low mortality and surgical morbidity rates after pancreatic head resection. Pancreatic complications occur with Whipple, PPPD and DPPHR procedures with a similar prevalence. Pancreatic fistula no longer seems to be a major problem after pancreatic head resection and rarely necessitates surgical treatment. © 2000 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd