OBJECTIVE: In our previous randomized trial, we suggested a possible role for endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) guided celiac plexus block in the treatment of abdominal pain associated with chronic pancreatitis. The purpose of this study was to evaluate our prospective experience with EUS-guided celiac plexus block for controlling pain attributed to chronic pancreatitis, including follow-up on response rates and complications. METHODS: All subjects enrolled had documented chronic pancreatitis by ERCP and EUS criteria and presented with chronic abdominal pain unresponsive to current treatment options. All were treated with EUS-guided celiac plexus block under the guidance of linear array endosonography using a 22-gauge FNA needle (GIP, Mediglobe Inc., Tempe, AZ) inserted on each side of the celiac area, followed by injection of 10 cc bupivacaine (0.25%) and 3 cc (40 mg) triamcinolone on each side of the celiac plexus. Individual pain scores, based on a visual analog scale (0-10), were determined preblock and postblock by a nurse at 2, 7, 14 days and monthly thereafter. Subjects also rated their overall comfort level during the EUS procedure. RESULTS: EUS-guided celiac plexus block was performed in 90 subjects (40 males, 50 females) having a mean age of 45 yr (range 17-76 yr) between July 1, 1995 and December 30, 1996. A significant improvement in overall pain scores occurred in 55% (50/90) of patients. The mean pain score decreased from 8 to 2 post EUS celiac block at both 4 and 8 wk follow-up (p < 0.05). In 26% of patients there was persistent benefit beyond 12 wk, and 10% still had persistent benefit at 24 wk, including three patients who were pain-free between 35 and 48 wk. Younger patients (<45 yr of age) and those having previous pancreatic surgery for chronic pancreatitis were unlikely to respond to the EUS-guided celiac block. Three patients experienced diarrhea post EUS celiac block, which resolved in 7-10 days; however, it is unclear whether this diarrhea was due to the block or to refractory disease. A cost comparison between the EUS ($1200) and CT ($1400) techniques shows the EUS celiac block to be less costly and perhaps more cost efficient in a subset of subjects. CONCLUSIONS: EUS-guided celiac plexus block appears to be safe, effective, and economical for controlling pain in some patients with chronic pancreatitis. Younger patients (<45 yr) and those having prior pancreatic surgery for chronic pancreatitis do not appear to benefit from this technique. Prophylactic antibiotics should be considered if acid suppressing agents are being taken.
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