BACKGROUND: Potential applications for laparoscopic surgery in pancreatic disease include (1) staging of pancreatic malignancies; (2) palliation of pancreatic malignancies; (3) pancreatic resections for benign and malignant disease; and (4) pancreatic drainage procedures. METHODS: A review of the literature is presented. In addition, original data on a series of 5 laparoscopic pancreatic distal resections and 10 laparoscopic cystogastrostomies are presented. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Laparoscopy may have a role in the staging of patients with pancreatic malignancies; however, with high-quality preoperative imaging, the percentage of patients who will benefit from laparoscopy may be as low as 5%. For palliation, both cholecystoenterostomy and choledochoenterostomy can be performed laparoscopically. The former is technically straightforward but has a higher failure rate; the latter is technically difficult and currently not suitable for widespread adoption. Laparoscopic gastroenterostomy is a straightforward means of palliating gastrointestinal obstruction. Patients appear to benefit from laparoscopic distal pancreatic resection but not from laparoscopic pancreaticoduodenectomy. Patients appear to benefit from laparoscopic pseudocyst decompression.
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