Fatty pancreas: A factor in postoperative pancreatic fistula

Abhishek Mathur, Henry A. Pitt, Megan Marine, Romil Saxena, C. Max Schmidt, Thomas J. Howard, Attila Nakeeb, Nicholas J. Zyromski, Keith D. Lillemoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

199 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine whether patients who develop a pancreatic fistula after pancreatoduodenectomy are more likely to have pancreatic fat than matched controls. BACKGROUND: Pancreatic fistula continues to be a major cause of postoperative morbidity and increased length of stay after pancreatoduodenectomy. Factors associated with postoperative pancreatic fistula include a soft pancreas, a small pancreatic duct, the underlying pancreatic pathology, the regional blood supply, and surgeon's experience. Fatty pancreas previously has not been considered as a contributing factor in the development of postoperative pancreatic fistula. METHODS: Forty patients with and without a pancreatic fistula were identified from an Indiana University database of over 1000 patients undergoing pancreatoduodenectomy and matched for multiple parameters including age, gender, pancreatic pathology, surgeon, and type of operation. Surgical pathology specimens from the pancreatic neck were reviewed blindly for fat, fibrosis, vessel density, and inflammation. These parameters were scored (0-4+). RESULTS: The pancreatic fistula patients were less likely (P < 0.05) to have diabetes but had significantly more intralobular (P < 0.001), interlobular (P < 0.05), and total pancreatic fat (P < 0.001). Fistula patients were more likely to have high pancreatic fat scores (50% vs. 13%, P < 0.001). Pancreatic fibrosis, vessel density, and duct size were lower (P < 0.001) in the fistula patients and negative correlations (P < 0.001) existed between fat and fibrosis (R = -0.40) and blood vessel density (R = -0.15). CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that patients with postoperative pancreatic fistula have (1) increased pancreatic fat and (2) decreased pancreatic fibrosis, blood vessel density, and duct size. Therefore, we conclude that fatty pancreas is a risk factor for postoperative pancreatic fistula.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1058-1064
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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