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Palliative Surgical Management of Patients with Unresectable Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma: Trends and Lessons Learned from a Large, Single Institution Experience

  • 2011 SSAT Quick Shot Presentation
  • Published:
Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery



Routine palliative bypass has been advocated for palliation of patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma who have inoperable disease discovered at the time of surgery. We examined trends in the relative use of palliative bypass over time with an emphasis on identifying changes in surgical indications, type of bypass performed, as well as perioperative outcomes associated with surgical palliation.


Between 1996 and 2010, 1,913 patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma in the head of the pancreas were surgically explored. Data regarding preoperative symptoms, intraoperative findings, type of surgical procedure performed, as well as perioperative and long-term outcomes were collected and analyzed.


Of the 1,913 patients, 583 (30.5%) underwent a palliative procedure. Most patients presented with jaundice (72.2%). The majority of patients were evaluated by CT scan (97.4%), which revealed a median tumor size of 3.2 cm. Most patients who underwent surgical palliation (64.5%) had a double bypass, while a minority had either gastrojejunostomy (28.2%) or hepaticojejunostomy (7.2%) alone. While the number of pancreaticoduodenectomies remained relatively stable over time, there was a temporal decrease in the utilization of palliative bypass (P < 0.001). Unanticipated locally advanced disease vs. liver/peritoneal metastasis as the indication for palliative surgery also changed over time (1996–2001: 47.8% vs. 52.2%; 2002–2007: 49.2% vs. 50.8%; 2008–2010: 17.2% vs. 82.7%) (P = 0.005). Palliative failure rates were 2.3% after hepaticojejunostomy and 3.1% after grastrojejunostomy. Patients with unsuspected metastatic disease had a worse survival compared with patients who had locally unresectable disease (median survival: 5 vs. 8 months, respectively; HR = 1.43, P = 0.001).


Palliative bypass procedures were less frequently performed over time, probably due to a significant decrease in the rate of unanticipated advanced locoregional disease at the time of exploration. While palliative bypass was effective, survival in the setting of metastatic disease was extremely short.

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Correspondence to Timothy M. Pawlik.

Additional information

Peter J. Kneuertz and Steven C. Cunningham contributed equally.

This study was presented at the 52nd Annual Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract Meeting, May 6–10, 2011, Chicago, IL, USA

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Kneuertz, P.J., Cunningham, S.C., Cameron, J.L. et al. Palliative Surgical Management of Patients with Unresectable Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma: Trends and Lessons Learned from a Large, Single Institution Experience. J Gastrointest Surg 15, 1917–1927 (2011).

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