Learning curve for laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy in a high-volume hospital
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Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy (LDP) for benign and borderline pancreatic lesions is recently becoming the treatment of choice in experienced centres. No data have been published on learning curve so far. The purpose of this study was to identify the learning curve period for performing LDP. Between March 2009 and August 2010 all patients with lesions of pancreatic body or tail were assessed for eligibility for LDP. Exclusion criteria were: major vessels contact in cancer patients, severe organ dysfunction, BMI > 35, and refusing laparoscopic approach. All laparoscopic procedures were carried out by the same surgical team with large experience in open pancreatic surgery. All patients were treated according to an early recovery after surgery protocol. Primary endpoint was conversion rate. Secondary endpoints were operative time, operative blood loss, postoperative morbidity, and length of stay (LOS). Sixty patients were assessed for eligibility. Thirty (50.0 %) patients met the exclusion criteria, while the other 30 patients underwent LDP. Spleen-preserving procedure was planned in the 17 patients with benign lesion and successfully performed in 15 (82.3 %). Overall conversion rate was 23.3 %, but it dropped significantly after the first ten patients (p = 0.01). Mean operative time progressively declined from 254 min in the first subgroup of ten patients to 206 min in the second (p = 0.09 vs. first), and 183 min in the third subgroup (p = 0.006 vs. first). No significant difference was found for operative blood loss, postoperative morbidity rate, and LOS in the different subgroups. Both conversion rate and operative time dropped after the first ten patients who underwent LDP. Strict selection criteria, high-volume hospital, and experienced team in open pancreatic surgery may have played a role in shortening the learning curve.