WASHINGTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – The three approaches to distal pancreatectomy – open, laparoscopic, and robotic – are equally safe and oncologically sound methods in properly selected patients, findings from a NSQIP database study show.

“The three approaches have specific indications for use and advantages in well-selected patients; therefore, demonstrating the superiority of one technique over another remains challenging,” said Dimitrios Xourafas, MD, in his presentation at the annual clinical congress of the American College of Surgeons.

Laparoscopic surgeries are more likely to result in open conversions than are robotic surgeries – but robotic surgeries take more time to complete. Open surgeries may be best for advanced disease. But all in all, there are no overriding advantages or disadvantages to any of them, reported Dr. Xourafas, a research fellow in surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.

He and his colleagues used the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement (NSQIP) database for detailed information on 1,815 distal pancreatectomies performed in 2014. These they separated into three groups: open (921), laparoscopic (694) and robotic (200).

There were no differences in baseline characteristics. Mean age of the patients was 62 years. More than 70% of each group had serious comorbidities. Significantly more in the open surgery group had lost 10% or more of their body weight since diagnosis; this was probably related to a higher rate of preoperative chemotherapy in this group, Dr. Xourafas said. Patients having open surgery also were more likely to have undergone radiation therapy.

There were significant, but mixed, differences in operative outcomes. Surgery was longest in the robotic group (243 minutes vs. 205 minutes in the laparoscopic group and 222 minutes in the open group.) Laparoscopic procedures were more likely to convert to open than were robotic (16% vs. 8%). Blood loss was significantly greater in the open group, with 21% needing transfusion vs. 5% laparoscopic and 6% robotic. Close to 100% of patients in the robotic and open groups needed no vascular resection and no reconstruction. In the open group, fewer patients (88%) had no vascular resection, and 84% required no reconstruction, suggesting that these cases were more advanced disease. This finding was also borne out by the larger percentage of tumors that staged at T3 or higher (34% in the open group vs. about 20% in the other groups). However, about half of each group had a malignant tumor subtype and lesion sizes were similar.

Surgical site infections were more common in the open group (10% vs. 7% of the other groups). The length of stay was longest in the open group (7 days vs. 5 in the other groups). The robotic group had the highest rate of pancreatic fistula (21%) although this was not significantly different from the open and laparoscopic rates (16% and 17%, respectively).

Overall morbidity was 45% in the open group, 36% in the laparoscopic group, and 37% in the robotic group. Mortality was 1.5% in the open group, 1% in the laparoscopic group, and 0.5% in the robotic group – not significantly different.

Dr. Xourafas had no financial disclosures.

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