Most patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are classified as nonoperative candidates based on the contemporary guidelines of resectability. The advent of more potent control of systemic disease using neoadjuvant chemotherapy has enabled more aggressive operative interventions. In our multidisciplinary practice, patients with Stage III, locally advanced pancreatic cancer and superior mesenteric artery (SMA) encasement are now carefully triaged with high quality, preoperative imaging to determine if they can be considered candidates for operative resection with periadventitial dissection of the SMA. Patients displaying a “halo sign,” where the encased SMA remains fully patent and free from arterial invasion, are now candidates for SMA periadventitial dissection. This procedure involves the surgical stripping of the infiltrated neurolymphatic tissue off the SMA leaving behind a bare “skeletonized artery.” Alternatively, the “string sign” involving the SMA confers a more likely case of arterial invasion, where a complete oncologic resection cannot be achieved successfully. This method of patient selection in case of SMA involvement abandons the traditional metrics of circumferential degrees of the arterial encasement to guide surgical decisions. Our institutional approach has allowed us to meaningfully expand our operative methods of resection with the potential for improved longitudinal outcomes to pancreatic cancer patients who were deprived historically from the more effective and possibly curative treatment.
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