Laparoscopic Pancreatectomy

Updated: May 14, 2018
  • Author: Eddy C Hsueh, MD; Chief Editor: Vikram Kate, MBBS, MS, PhD, FRCS, FACS, FACG, FRCS(Edin), FRCS(Glasg), FIMSA, MAMS, MASCRS  more...
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Laparoscopic operations for pancreatic disease were first attempted in the 1960s. [1] Laparoscopic pancreatic enucleations and resections have been performed for both benign and malignant disease, with good immediate results. [1, 2]

The first laparoscopic pancreaticoduodenectomy was performed by Gagner and Pomp in 1992 to treat chronic pancreatitis. [3] Subsequent small studies and case series have shown that the morbidity and mortality of laparoscopic pancreaticoduodenectomy are comparable to those of the equivalent open operation. [4, 5, 6]

Several centers have published their results with laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy and have found that, in comparison with an open approach, operating time is increased, blood loss decreased, and length of hospital admission shortened. [7, 8, 9, 10, 11]  A 2016 meta-analysis compared robotic-assisted distal pancreatectomy with laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy and found the former to be associated with a lower volume of blood loss, a higher spleen-preservation rate, and a shorter hospital stay. [12]

With the publication of the Clinical Outcomes of Surgical Therapy (COST) trial, many centers are attempting increasingly complex laparoscopic operations in an attempt to decrease length of stay and reduce the incidence of complications associated with open abdominal operations. [13]



Indications for laparoscopic pancreatectomy are the same as those for corresponding open procedures, as follows: 

  • Malignant or benign exocrine tumors
  • Malignant or benign endocrine tumors
  • Symptomatic serous cystadenoma
  • Mucinous tumors
  • Intraductal papillary mucinous tumor (IPMT)
  • Cystic pancreatic neoplasms
  • Solid pseudopapillary tumor of the pancreas [14]

However, the choice of proceeding with a laparoscopic approach relies heavily on the surgeon's judgment and experience.



Contraindications for laparoscopic pancreatectomy are the same as those for open procedures and include metastatic malignant tumors and tumors that are unresectable owing to local invasion or encasement of the perihilar portal vein, celiac axis, hepatic artery, or superior mesenteric artery (SMA).


Technical Considerations

Procedural planning

Preoperative nutritional optimization should be performed, if possible.

Preoperative imaging, including computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET)/CT, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS), magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), and angiography, can be helpful for determining the resectability of pancreatic lesions, as well as for staging malignant lesions.

A diligent search for metastatic lesions that would obviate the benefit of resection should also be undertaken in patients with potentially malignant lesions. Any involvement of vascular structures should be ascertained preoperatively; involvement of the SMA with pancreatic adenocarcinoma makes a lesion unresectable owing to invasion of the periarterial neural plexus.

See Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma Imaging: What You Need to Know, a Critical Images slideshow, to help identify which imaging studies are used to identify and evaluate this disease.

Laparoscopic pancreatic resections can take anywhere from 78 to 848 minutes, depending on the surgeon and the type of resection. [1, 15, 16, 17]

Complication prevention

Bioabsorbable staple-line reinforcement, octreotide infusion, fibrin glue, and ultrasonic scalpel dissection have been studied as potential methods to lower the rate of pancreatic leaks but have yielded mixed results in clinical trials. [18, 19, 20, 21]

There is no significant difference in the incidence of delayed gastric emptying whether the pylorus is spared or not, but the administration of erythromycin has been found to reduce the occurrence of delayed gastric emptying. [22, 23]



Laparoscopic pancreatectomy for benign disease has been shown to yield long-term results that are comparable to those of equivalent open procedures, with shorter hospital stays and quicker return to full activity. [15, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29]

Whereas the short-term benefits of minimally invasive surgery have also been observed in patients with malignant lesions, the long-term oncologic outcomes have not been studied rigorously. [1, 30]

Stauffer et al reported that laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy was associated with more resected lymph nodes than open distal pancreatectomy was (25.9 vs 12.7) and that the 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival rates were comparable between the laparoscopic procedure (69%, 41%, and 41%, respectively) and the open procedure (78%, 44%, and 32%, respectively). [31]

Raoof et al, in a propensity score-matched comparison of oncologic outcomes between laparoscopic and open distal pancreatic resection, found that the outcomes of the two approaches were comparable with respect to median number of days to chemotherapy (50 vs 50) median number of nodes examined (12 vs 12); 30-day mortality (1.2% vs 0.9%); 90-day mortality (2.8% vs 3.7%), 30-day readmission rate (9.6% vs 9.2%), and positive margin rate (14.9% vs 18.5%). [32] However, median duration of hospital stay was shorter in the laparoscopic group (6 vs 7 days).