Pancreatic trauma: Diagnostic and therapeutic strategies

Herb A. Phelan, Joseph P. Minei

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The management of pancreatic trauma provides trauma surgeons with diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. The two most important facts that must be established are the location of the injury in relation to the superior mesenteric artery and vein and the status of the main pancreatic duct. If a pancreatic injury is discovered at the time of exploration and no main ductal injury is found, debridement and wide drainage are adequate therapy regardless of the location of the injury. If the status of the duct cannot be confidently determined and the injury lies to the left of the vessels, a single attempt at cholecystocholangiography should be performed. If this is unsuccessful, distal pancreatectomy with splenectomy with no further attempts at ductal imaging are our treatments of choice. Splenic salvage may be considered in the pediatric population. If the injury lies to the right of the vessels and the status of the duct is not able to be diagnosed with thorough exploration, we recommend endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), either intraoperatively or on an urgent basis postoperatively, with wide closed suction drainage prior to closure of the abdomen. If the ERCP shows intact pancreatic and common bile ducts, expectant management is warranted. If the duct is injured, the patient is returned to the operating room for debridement of the injury, oversewing of the proximal pancreatic duct, and a distal pancreaticojejunostomy. Use of ERCP to stent this injury type has been reported but has yet to be rigorously studied. If the ampulla is destroyed or the pancreatic head is devascularized, pancreaticoduodenectomy is required either at the original surgery or after patient stabilization if damage control laparotomy is necessary. If a stable trauma patient has findings on a computed tomography suggestive of an isolated pancreatic injury, we still recommend laparotomy using the previously mentioned algorithm. All patients with pancreatic injury should have feeding access placed intra-operatively beyond the ligament of Treitz, with our choice being a nasal-jejunal feeding tube. Postoperative pancreatic fistulae should be managed with adequate closed suction drainage, octreotide, and observation for a period of at least 4 to 8 weeks prior to contemplation of surgical intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-363
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Gastroenterology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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