Objective: To evaluate the results of debridement and closed packing for necrotizing pancreatitis and to determine the optimal timing of surgical intervention based on patient outcomes. Methods: Between February 1990 and November 1996, 64 consecutive patients with necrotizing pancreatitis were treated with necrosectomy followed by closed packing of the cavity with stuffed Penrose and closed suction drains. The mean APACHE II score immediately before surgery was 9, and 31% of the patients had organ failure. Patients were stratified with an outcome score based on death and major complications; this was correlated with the timing of surgical intervention. The data were then subjected to cut-point analysis by sequential group comparison. Results: Patients underwent surgery a median of 31 days after diagnosis. Fifty-six percent had infected necrosis. The mortality rate was 6.2% and was no different in infected or sterile necrosis. Eleven patients required a second surgical procedure and 13 required percutaneous drainage; a single surgical procedure sufficed in 69%. Enteric fistulae occurred in 16% of patients. The mean hospital stay after surgery was 41 days, and the interval until return to regular activities was 147 days. A significant negative correlation between duration of pancreatitis and outcome scores was found, and sequential group comparison demonstrated that the change point at which significantly better outcomes were encountered was day 27. Conclusion: Debridement of pancreatic necrosis followed by closed packing and drainage is accomplished with a low mortality rate and reduced rates of complications and second surgical procedures. Although intervention is best deferred until the demarcation of necrosis is complete, delay beyond the fourth week confers no additional advantage.
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