Ampullary Carcinoma Follow-up

Updated: Nov 10, 2016
  • Author: Ayana Allard-Picou, MD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Further Outpatient Care

Follow-up guidelines are not well established for ampullary carcinoma. Reasonable practice includes blood studies, chest radiograph, and CT scan of the abdomen and/or pelvis every 6 months.

If treatment ultimately fails, it often does so within 5 years. Unfortunately, good salvage therapies do not yet exist. Palliative chemotherapeutic agents and effective medications for pain relief exist.




Reviews of single-institution surgical experiences of ampullary cancer have focused on the identification of histopathologic features associated with prognosis and survival. Retrospective review, small patient numbers, and long periods of enrollment limit what can be learned from these studies. However, common themes emerge from these published clinicopathologic analyses. [34]

Survival after surgical resection is related to the extent of local invasion of the primary lesion, lymph node involvement, vascular invasion, perineural invasion, cellular differentiation, and uninvolved surgical margins. Even a single lymph node with evidence of metastatic carcinoma portends a poor outcome with surgery alone. Exactly which factors are truly independent remains controversial.

El-Ghazzawy et al reviewed experiences in the US Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals from 1987-1991, during which time 123 patients were diagnosed with ampullary cancer. In the group that underwent surgical resection, perineural invasion, microlymphatic invasion, vascular invasion, or tumor differentiation did not independently influence survival when the tumors were controlled for stage. [16]

Yamaguchi et al compared 18 variables among 8 long-term survivors and 12 short-term survivors with ampullary cancer and found that only perineural invasion and histologic grade were significant. [35]

In a retrospective review of 46 consecutive cases of ampullary carcinoma, multivariate analysis by Sudo et al showed perineural invasion to be a significant independent predictor of poor prognosis (P = 0.024). On univariate analysis, other significant predictors of poor prognosis were T3 and T4 tumors (ie, pancreatic parenchymal invasion) (P < 0.001) and lymph node metastasis (P = 0.01). [36]

Multivariate analysis of 302 cases by Lowe et al also showed that perineural invasion is associated with lower survival (hazard ratio [HR] 4.62, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.11-19.21), as was N1 disease (HR 4.50, CI 1.16-17.40). [37]

A retrospective study of 50 patients by Uchida et al found that patients with preoperative jaundice had poorer survival than those without jaundice (5-year survival 57.2% vs. 100%, respectively, P < 0.01). [38]

Similarly, Carter et al reported that patients with pancreaticobiliary ampullary adenocarcinomas, whose survival was worse than that of patients whose tumors had intestinal histology, were more likely to present with jaundice. This study also drew similarities in patterns of behavior based on histologic subtype, noting that intestinal ampullary adenocarcinomas behaved similarly to their duodenal counterparts, whereas pancreaticobiliary ampullary cancers were generally more aggressive and behaved like pancreatic adenocarcinomas. [3]

In a series from Johns Hopkins, operative blood transfusions conferred a poorer 5-year survival rate on univariate analysis but not on multivariate analysis. [19]

Akwari et al noted that papillary histologic features portended a more favorable prognosis, with a reported 40% survival rate at 5 years, versus only 16% in those with invasive lesions. [39] The Cleveland Clinic experience also confirmed the favorable nature of papillary histology. Table 3 summarizes the outcomes for patients with involved lymph nodes.

Table 3. Summary of 5-Year Survival After Resection for Lymph Node Negative and Positive Carcinoma of the Ampulla of Vater (Open Table in a new window)


Node-Negative, % (#)

Node-Positive, % (#)

P Value

University of Alabama at Birmingham [13]

78 (19)

50 (5)

Not significant

Mayo Clinic, Minnesota [14]

43 (53)

16 (50)


Montebelluna Hospital, Italy [15]

64 (22)

0 (9)


Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam [17]

59 (32)

41 (35)


Niigata University, Japan [22]

81 (17)

41 (18)

< .01

Johns Hopkins, Baltimore [19]

43 (53)

31 (50)


Kanazawa University Hospital, Japan [23]

74 (21)

31 (15)

< .05

Memorial Sloan- Kettering, New York [20]

55 (55)

30 (46)


Loyola University, Chicago [40]

78 (27)

25 (24)

< 0.05


In a study of 37 patients, Haruki et al reported that the preoperative neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) is an independent and significant indicator of long-term outcome after pancreaticoduodenectomy for carcinoma of the ampulla of Vater. An NLR ≥3 was a significant predictor of reduced overall survival (p=0.026). [41]

Patients with ampullary tumors have an overall better prognosis than those with pancreatic cancer and studies have demonstrated better survival after surgical resection for ampullary cancer. Ampullary tumors are more likely to result in biliary obstruction earlier in their course, and therefore tend to present at an earlier stage compared to most pancreatic cancers. [1]

Allema et al reported a 5-year overall survival rate of 50% in patients who underwent resection (subtotal or total pancreaticoduodenectomy) for ampullary cancer. Additionally, This series demonstrated that involvement of resection margins was the strongest prognostic factor for overall survival: patients with negative margins at resection had 5-year survival rates of up to 60%, compared with 15% in patients with positive margins (p<0.001).<ref>17</ref>

Patterns of failure

Unfortunately, most patients with carcinoma of the ampulla of Vater die of recurrent disease. Treatment fails in nearly 70% of patients with poor prognostic features, and these patients ultimately die of their disease.

Kopelson and associates described regional nodal recurrences in 3 of 12 patients with ampullary cancers following potentially curative resection. From pooled data on 80 patients with ampullary cancer, they found that 54% developed locoregional recurrence. [42]