OBJECTIVE: To establish the current status of surgical therapy for chronic pancreatitis, recent published reports are examined in the context of the historical advances in the field. BACKGROUND: The basis for decompression (drainage), denervation, and resection strategies for the treatment of pain caused by chronic pancreatitis is reviewed. These divergent approaches have finally coalesced as the head of the pancreas has become apparent as the nidus of chronic inflammation. METHODS: The recent developments in surgical methods to treat the complications of chronic pancreatitis and the results of recent prospective randomized trials of operative approaches were reviewed to establish the current best practices. RESULTS: Local resection of the pancreatic head, with or without duct drainage, and duodenum-preserving pancreatic head resection offer outcomes as effective as pancreaticoduodenectomy, with lowered morbidity and mortality. Local resection or excavation of the pancreatic head offers the advantage of lowest cost and morbidity and early prevention of postoperative diabetes. The late incidences of recurrent pain, diabetes, and exocrine insufficiency are equivalent for all 3 surgical approaches. CONCLUSIONS: Local resection of the pancreatic head appears to offer best outcomes and lowest risk for the management of the pain of chronic pancreatitis.
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