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Background: Postoperative pancreatic fistula serves as the principle cause for the morbidity and mortality observed after pancreatectomy. Continuous drain irrigation as a treatment strategy for infected pancreatic necrosis has previously been described; however, its role adter pancreatectomy has yet to be determined. The aim of this study was to determine whether continuous drain irrigation reduces postoperative pancreatic fistula. Methods: A meta-analysis of the pre-existing literature was performed. The primary end point was whether continuous drain irrigation reduced postoperative pancreatic fistula after pancreatectomy. The secondary end point evaluated its impact on postoperative morbidity, mortality, and length of stay. Results: Nine articles involving 782 patients were included. Continuous drain irrigation use was associated with a statistically significant reduction in postoperative pancreatic fistula rates (odds ratio [95% confidence interval] 0.40 [0.19–0.82], P = .01). Upon subgroup analysis, a significant reduction in clinically relevant postoperative pancreatic fistula was also noted (odds ratio 0.37 [0.20–0.66], P = .0008). A reduction in postoperative complications was also observed—delayed gastric emptying (0.45 [0.24–0.84], P = .01) and the need for re-operation (0.33 [0.11–0.96], P = .04). This reduction in postoperative complications translated into a reduced length of stay (mean difference −2.62 [−4.97 to −0.26], P = .03). Conclusion: Continuous drain irrigation after pancreatectomy is a novel treatment strategy with a limited body of published evidence. After acknowledging the limitations of the data, initial analysis would suggest that it may serve as an effective risk mitigation strategy against postoperative pancreatic fistula. Further research in a prospective context utilizing patient risk stratification for fistula development is, however, required to define its role within clinical practice.

Original publication




Journal article


Surgery (United States)

Publication Date