The treatment of patients with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (ZES) has undergone dramatic evolution during the past decade. Although initially regarded as an incurable tumor, resection of gastrinoma for potential cure has been reported in 30% to 40% of selected patients in recent series. Conversely, although definitive control of acid hypersecretion is achieved by total gastrectomy, histamine (H2)-receptor antagonists and the newly introduced agents omeprazole and somatostatin analogues allow effective medical therapy of gastric acid overproduction. Confirmation of the diagnosis is best achieved with the I.V. secretin stimulation test, and tumor localization techniques are mandatory to identify candidates for operative tumor resection. Intraoperative sonography and careful exploration are required for tumor removal; successful tumor resection is associated with prolonged survival. The majority of patients (60%) are still found to have malignant disease at the time of diaganosis, but 10-year overall survival commonly exceeds 40%. The presence of multiple endocrine neoplasia type I (MEN-I) is seen in 10% to 25% of patients; correction of hypercalcemia alone may have therapeutic benefit in some ZES patients, and while gastrinoma resection is rarely possible, MEN-I patients demonstrate prolonged survival. The choice of medical rather than surgical therapy for acid hypersecretion depends on the suitability of each patient for careful and repeated endoscopic and chemical studies, versus the likelihood of a successful postoperative outcome. Socioeconomic, geographic, and related medical factors in each case may dictate the form of long-term antisecretory therapy. Exploration for possible tumor resection is indicated for virtually all patients who have no documented metastatic disease.
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