Minimally Invasive Necrosectomy versus Open Necrosectomy Approaches in a Tertiary Hepatopancreatobiliary Unit

Eugene Wong1,2, Julia Jones1, Justin S Gundara1, Christopher Nahm1, Sarah Cho2,3, Ian Norton2,3, Jaswinder S Samra1,2, Anubhav Mittal1,2

1Upper Gastrointestinal Surgical Unit, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia

2University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia

3Department of Gastroenterology, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia

*Corresponding Author:
Anubhav Mittal
GIT Surgery
University of Sydney
Royal North Shore Hospital
St Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia
Tel: + 61 2 9463 2899
Fax: + 61 2 9463 2080
E-mail: [email protected]

Received August 04th, 2017-Accepted September 29th, 2017

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Introduction The minimally invasive “step-up” approach to acute pancreatitis with necrotic collection is now well established. This study aimed to retrospectively review the indications, specific techniques used and outcomes of pancreatic necrosectomy in an Australasian tertiary hepatopancreatobiliary unit. Methods Retrospective analysis of 21 patients with confirmed diagnosis of necrotising pancreatitis with necrotic collection admitted to a tertiary hepatopancreatobiliary unit between May 2010 and May 2016 was performed. Primary composite endpoint of morbidity or mortality as outlined by the PANTER were examined. Results Out of the 23 total patients included in the study, 7 patients were treated with traditional open necrosectomy and the remaining 16 patients underwent a minimally invasive step-up approach. There was no statistically significant difference between the minimally invasive and open necrosectomy groups in terms of the primary endpoint (p=0.29) or development of any Grade 3 complication (p=0.19). Discussion Based on the experience of a small cohort of patients managed at a tertiary hepatopancreatobiliary unit, we did not find an appreciable difference in measurable endpoint outcomes between patients who underwent minimally invasive step-up necrosectomy as compared to open necrosectomy. Further multi-centre trials are still required to investigate if the management of severe acute pancreatitis can be safely undertaken at adequately resourced hospitals but without access to MIN.


Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures; Pancreatitis


Acute pancreatitis is a common acute surgical condition, with worldwide incidence variably reported to be between 4.9-73.4 cases per 100,000 people [1]. The incidence of acute pancreatitis continues to increase, and it is now reported to be the most common gastrointestinal indication for US hospital admission [2, 3]. With this, the burden of associated peri-pancreatic and multi-system related complications has increased and the health economic burden is large [3, 4]. Despite recent advances in technology and minimally invasive techniques, severe and critical pancreatitis continues to have high morbidity and mortality [5, 6].


Management of infected pancreatic necrotic collection in a patient with multi-organ dysfunction continues to pose an ongoing challenge. Historically, surgeons would embark on morbid open surgical debridement and accept the consequences of this treatment which were often ascribed to the disease process itself [7]. Over the last decade, surgical management of infected necrosis has evolved from a maximally invasive approach to a minimally invasive, “step-up” approach. More specifically, 2010 saw the publication of the “Open necrosectomy vs. step-up approach for necrotising pancreatitis” (PANTER) trial, the first randomised study of 88 patients to show that a minimally invasive “step-up” approach reduced organ failure rates but did not reduce mortality when compared with open techniques [5].

The PANTER trial and subsequent studies have resulted in a paradigm shift and minimally invasive approach has been rapidly incorporated into surgical practice [8, 9]. This is reflected in recent guidelines for management of acute pancreatitis recommending a minimally invasive approach, such as in the International Association of Pancreatology (IAP)/American Pancreatic Association (APA) guideline published in Pancreatology in 2013 [10].

Study Question

The primary aim of the study was to compare the composite endpoint of morbidity or mortality for minimally invasive step-up approach vs. open necrosectomy in a ‘real world’ high volume tertiary hepatopancreatobiliary (HPB) unit. The secondary aims were to document differences between the two groups for the development of multipleorgan failure, multiple systemic complications, number of interventions during admission, hospital length of stay and the development of incisional hernia and diabetes.


Study Design

All cases of acute necrotising pancreatitis with necrotic collection admitted between the 1st of May 2010 to the 1st of May 2016 to the Royal North Shore Hospital Campus of the University of Sydney were retrospectively identified by searching through the inpatient hospital database (PowerChart, Cerner, North Sydney, Australia) and a prospectively maintained surgical audit database. The following ICD-10 codes were used (K85.02, K85.12, K85.22, K85.32, K85.82, K85.92). Case notes and electronic records were then retrieved and retrospectively reviewed and data collected on a structured proforma. Only patients with imaging confirmed necrotising pancreatitis with collection were included in the study cohort (Table 1).



Endoscopic transgastric drainage – A side-viewing duodenoscope was used under conscious sedation and ultrasound guidance where possible. Extrinsic compression from a walled off pancreatic necrosis was determined from the endoscopic approach. After entry into the collection was achieved, two pigtail catheters were inserted. Traditionally, in medial retrogastric collections this approach is preferred.

Percutaneous drainage – A drain was introduced with Computed Tomography (CT) guidance into the pancreatic collection using a retro-peritoneal approach.

Minimally-invasive necrosectomy – Patients undergoing either percutaneous drainage, endoscopic transgastric drainage or a minimally-invasive necrosectomy as the first procedure were considered to have undergone a Minimally-invasive Approach (MIN) to management. The minimally invasive approach involved either a Minimally Invasive Pancreatic Necrosectomy (MIRP) or a Video- Assisted Retroperitoneal Debridement (VARD) [11, 12].

Open necrosectomy – Patients undergoing an open necrosectomy as the first procedure were considered to have undergone an open necrosectomy approach (ONec.) The abdominal cavity was accessed via a midline or subcostal incisions, and the pancreas exposed by dissecting the overlying omentum. Extensive debridement of pancreatic collections and nonviable tissue was then performed.

Outcome Evaluation

Primary outcome - The primary endpoint as defined in the PANTER trial protocol was a composite comprising of a number of major postoperative complications, which included new onset, multi-organ failure, severe pulmonary, circulatory or renal failure, systemic complication or development of visceral perforation, an enterocutaneous fistula or severe intra-abdominal bleeding requiring surgical, radiologic or endoscopic intervention [5].

Secondary outcomes: development of any Grade 3 or higher complication, hospital length of stay, number of procedures and development of new diabetes or incisional hernias.

Statistical Analysis

Unpaired student’s t-test and multiple logistic regression analysis were performed as appropriate. Kaplan-Meier survival curves and the Cox Regression survival analysis were performed as necessary. A p-value of less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant. All statistical analyses were performed using Statistical Analysis Software v9.4 (SAS Institute Inc, Cary NC, USA.)


This study was approved by the Northern Sydney Local Health District, Human Research Ethics Committee.


A total of 23 patients were identified as having acute necrotising pancreatitis admitted to the Royal North Shore Hospital between the 1st of May 2010 and the 1st of June 2016. Of these, 7 patients were treated with the traditional open necrosectomy (ONec) approach as their first procedure while the remaining 16 patients underwent the minimally invasive step-up approach (MIN).


The majority of patients in both groups were male: 75% (n=12) in MIN and 86% (n=6) in ONec. 12 patients were admitted directly from the Emergency department while the remaining 11 patients were admitted via an inter-hospital transfer from surrounding district hospitals. Table 2 summarizes the demographic data for the cohort.



Of all 23 patients who were diagnosed with necrotising pancreatitis, 8 were secondary to alcohol use, 9 were biliary, 1 was due to hypertriglyceridemia, 1 post-ERCP procedure, 1 following Clostridium Difficile colitis, and 1 was following a distal pancreatectomy performed at a district hospital for excision of a neuroendocrine tumour. The remaining patient experienced idiopathic necrotising pancreatitis with no clear aetiology.

Number of Operations/Procedures

The median number of operations or procedures undertaken by patients in both the MIN group and ONec groups was 2 (MIN range 1-7, ONec range 1-6) in patients. This difference was not found to be statistically significant (p=0.77).

Of those who underwent MIN, eight patients (50%) underwent either percutaneous or endoscopic transgastric drain insertion as the initial intervention. The other eight patients (50%) began with a minimally invasive pancreatic necrosectomy via video-assisted retroperitoneal debridement (VARD) procedure. Only 1 patient who initially underwent MIN subsequently progressed to open necrosectomy, but was included in the MIN group for analysis (Table 3).


Patients who underwent MIN had shorter time to first procedure when compared to ONec, but this difference was not found to be statistically significant (P=0.14.)

Hospital Length of Stay

The mean hospital length of stay in the MIN group was 2.21 months (months defined as 31 days; SD 1.10), compared to 3.31 months (SD 1.44) in the ONec group (p=0.46).

Primary Endpoint

Ten out of the 16 patients in the MIN group experienced the primary endpoint (63%), compared to 5 patients in the ONec group (71%). This difference was not statistically significant on univariate analysis (OR=2.4, p=0.29, 95% CI 0.22 – 26.8) or after adjusting for age, sex, number of operations and admission APACHE II score (OR=4.5, p=0.25, 95% CI 0.36-55.9) (Table 4).


Grade 3 Complications

The complications were classified based on the Clavien- Dindo classification for surgical complications [13]. Nine of the 16 patients who underwent MIN experienced at least one Grade 3 complication (56%), compared to 5 patients who underwent ONec (71%). Again, this was not found to be statistically significant on univariate (OR=4.6, p=0.20, 95%CI 0.45-48) or multivariate analysis (OR=6.3, p=0.16, 95% CI 0.51–80)

Development of New Incisional Hernia or Diabetes

Two patients experienced new onset diabetes in the MIN group while 1 patient experienced this outcome in the ONec group (OR 1.17, p=0.91). One patient in the MIN group and 1 in the ONec group developed a new incisional hernia (OR 2.50, P=0.54). The patient who developed an incisional hernia in the MIN group underwent subsequent open necrosectomy [14, 15, 16].

In-hospital Mortality

During the index admission, 2 patients in the MIN group died as compared to no deaths in ONec. Given the small cohort size and that as no patients in ONec died, it was not meaningful to perform statistical survival analysis on this cohort of patients (Table 5).



Here we present the experience of a high-volume HPB unit at a major metropolitan hospital (Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, Australia) in the management of severe acute pancreatitis with necrosis. There was no statistically significant difference in major surgical complications (Grade 3 or higher), ICU or hospital length of stay between MIN and ONec. In addition, MIN patients underwent more interventions compared to ONec patients.

The PANTER trial provided strong impetus for wide adoption of MIN in critically ill surgical patients needing pancreatic necrosectomy. However, there was no difference in the length of stay in ICU, hospital length of stay or mortality. The findings of the current study are consistent with the PANTER trial.

A meta-analysis performed by Cirocchi et al. comparing MIN and ONec published in 2013 pooled 4 clinical controlled trials (both non-randomised and randomised). This metaanalysis identified a statistically significant difference in incidence of multiple organ failure as well as development of incisional hernias and new-onset diabetes, but did not find any difference in the incidence of intra-abdominal bleeding, fistula formation or surgical re-intervention [17]. A retrospective case-control study from Liverpool (UK) over 16 years comparing 274 patients undergoing minimal access retroperitoneal necrosectomy (MARPN) with 120 open necrosectomy also did not demonstrate significantly different mortality between the two groups [18].

These data are important because not all HPB units around the world will have access to the equipment or expertise required to perform MIN while they may have the necessary infra-structure to support a patient through ONec. Perhaps what is more important in determining outcome in these critically ill patients is an adequately resourced intensive care unit and interventional radiology departments [19]. Transfer of patients from a rural base hospital with adequte ICU to a high volume pancreatic centre will often displace them from their families and social support networks. Transfer of critically ill patients across long distances is complex, costly and difficult in many countries. For example, a retrospective review in 2005 found that 73% of patients with surgical emergencies transferred from rural Australian hospitals arrived out of normal working hours and may have thus had their care compromised [20].

The small cohort size and the retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data are limitations of the study. Despite the small numbers, the results are consistent with published literature. The small number of patients presenting to any single high volume HPB unit will continue to pose a problem for future researchers, but this study will undoubtedly contribute to the published literature on the topic.


The current study performed at a high volume and adequately resourced HPB unit at a major tertiary hospital failed to show any significant difference in composite endpoint of morbidity between MIN and ONec. While clinical equipoise may not exist in choosing between MIN and ONec at some centres, further multi-centre trials are still required to investigate if the management of severe acute pancreatitis can be safely undertaken at adequately resourced hospitals but without access to MIN or if these patients need to be transferred often adding to the complexity of managing these critically ill patients.

Conflict of Interest

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


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