Staging laparoscopy in patients with pancreatic cancer identifies unsuspected metastases, allows treatment selection, and helps predict survival.
Tertiary referral center.
A total of 125 consecutive patients with radiographic stage II to III pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma who underwent staging laparoscopy with peritoneal cytologic examination between July 1994 and November 1998. Seventy-eight proximal tumors and 47 distal tumors were localized.
Based on the findings of spiral computed tomography (CT) and laparoscopy, patients were stratified into 3 groups. Group 1 patients had unsuspected metastases found at laparoscopy and were palliated without further operation. Group 2 patients had no demonstrable metastases, but CT indicated unresectability due to vessel invasion. This group underwent external beam radiation with fluorouracil chemotherapy followed in selected cases by intraoperative radiation. Patients in group 3 had no metastases or definitive vessel invasion and were resection candidates.
Main Outcome Measure
Staging laparoscopy revealed unsuspected metastases in 39 patients (31.2%), with 9 having positive cytologic test results as the only evidence of metastatic disease (group 1). Fifty-five patients (44.0%) had localized but unresectable carcinoma (group 2), of whom 2 (3.6%) did not tolerate treatment, 20 (36.4%) developed metastatic disease during treatment, and 21 (38.2%) received intraoperative radiation. Of 31 patients with potentially resectable tumors (group 3), resection for cure was performed in 23 (resectability rate, 74.2%). Median survival was 7.5 months for patients with metastatic disease, 10.5 months for those receiving chemoradiation, and 14.5 months for those who underwent tumor resection (P=.01 for group 2 vs group 1; P<.001 for group 3 vs group 1).
Staging laparoscopy, combined with spiral CT, allowed stratification of patients into 3 treatment groups that correlated with treatment opportunity and subsequent survival. Among the 125 patients, laparoscopy obviated 39 unnecessary operations and irradiation in patients with metastatic disease not detectable by CT. Laparoscopic staging can help focus aggressive treatment on patients with pancreatic cancer who might benefit.