The role of surgery in the major early complications of severe acute pancreatitis

Claudio Bassi, Massimo Falconi, Nora Sartori, Antonio Bonora, Erminia Caldiron, Giovanni Butturini, Roberto Salvia, Paolo Pederzoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The early complications of severe acute pancreatitis may constitute a dramatic clinical dilemma in the first 2 weeks of the disease, when the surgical approach is made even more difficult by failure to define the precise extent of the necrotic component of the disease. Moreover, the surgical indication itself is not always based on clear guidelines to which the clinician can refer, and this is due to factors of two types: (i) the intrinsic complexity of the pancreatitis syndrome in its early toxic stages and (ii) the difficulty in understanding the relevant information reported in the literature in this connection, which is often incomplete and based on confused terminology. While the surgical indication is universally accepted in the case of infection of the necrotic tissue (an event, however, which is by no means frequent in the early stages of severe pancreatitis), the development of multi-organ failure despite adequate intensive care is a potential indication which not all specialists go along with, at least not as regards the ideal timing of the intervention. Other surgical indications which have emerged are evidence of complete rupture of the main pancreatic duct and the presence of very extensive sterile necrosis. As things stand at present, however, we are witnessing a general tendency to postpone surgery, since delayed surgery is associated with a lower incidence of complications than is the case with early surgery. If, as is known, the role of surgery is aimed mainly at the treatment of superinfections and severe multi-organ failures, targeted antibiotic prophylaxis and earlier, more complete anti-enzymatic therapy may, as suggested by a number of pilot studies, offer a promising alternative to invasive procedures which are sometimes risky, though indispensable, in an attempt to save patients who would otherwise have no chance of survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-136
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • Early complications
  • Necrotizing pancreatitis
  • Severe acute pancreatitis
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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