Background: Necrotizing pancreatitis is a poorly understood process that has been treated by a variety of surgical approaches. Despite advances in operative interventions and critical care, this disease often requires prolonged resource allocation and continues to cause substantial morbidity, with mortality rates ranging from 11% to 40%. We report on our recent series of patients with necrotizing pancreatitis and our experience with the use of an absorbable mesh in a subset of these patients to facilitate their surgical care. Study Design: From 1985 to 1994, 40 patients with culture-proved necrotizing pancreatitis underwent operative debridement and drainage. Surgical outcomes were compared among patients who underwent a single debridement and drainage, those requiring multiple procedures, and those having placement of polyglycolic acid mesh. Results: The overall hospital mortality rate was 30%. The mean length of hospital stay was 35 days. The rate of infected pancreatic necrosis was 60%, with a mortality rate of 45% in patients having infected pancreatic tissue at surgery. Patients without infected pancreatic tissue at surgery had a mortality rate of 6% (p = 0.03). Eleven patients requiring multiple operations had placement of absorbable polyglycolic acid mesh. Clinic followup was possible in five of six survivors who underwent mesh closure. Abdominal-wall hernias developed in two patients and were repaired electively, and three patients had spontaneous closure by granulation without abdominal-wall hernias. The average number of operations for debridement and drainage was 2.5 (range, 1-15). Patients with limited pancreatic necrosis required a single operative debridement and drainage, and this was associated with improved outcomes. Conclusions: Necrotizing pancreatitis remains an important challenge in surgical care. It requires prolonged hospitalization, costly resources, and causes substantial morbidity and mortality. Our patients with infected pancreatic necrosis or clinical deterioration underwent open staged necrosectomy and debridement. Those patients requiring repeat laparotomy often had placement of polyglycolic acid mesh. This provided open drainage of the abdominal cavity and simplified further care by allowing easy abdominal access for repeat drainage procedures, often performed in the intensive care unit. These patients had a high rate of fistula formation, which may be decreased by changes in wound care. Polyglycolic acid mesh is a useful adjunct in the surgical care of selected patients with necrotizing pancreatitis.
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