Fifty-one patients underwent operation for adenocarcinoma of the ampulla of Vater. Seven patients underwent palliative bypass, with an operative mortality of 28.6%; 44 additional patients underwent potentially curative pancreaticoduodenal resection (PDR), with an operative mortality of 15.9%. Postoperative complications occurred in 63% of patients. Postoperative gastrointestinal bleeding was observed in 11 of 44 patients who underwent PDR (25%). Although anastomotic ulcers (AU) were directly implicated in five cases (45%), the 12% incidence of AU-related bleeding among 33 patients who underwent PDR without truncal vagotomy (TV) was not significantly different from the 9% incidence observed in 11 patients who underwent PDR plus TV. However, performance of TV appeared to result in a higher incidence of postoperative pulmonary complications. Five patients who underwent curative resection survived for five years (11%). Only one of seven patients who underwent palliative bypass survived three years (14%), and none survived to five years. Acceptable survival rates following resectional therapy warrant an aggressive approach to this tumor. Further, our experience suggests that TV may increase postoperative patient morbidity without actually providing any protection from anastomotic ulceration.
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