Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the Unites States and is rising in incidence. For the 15-25% of patients who do not have either metastatic or locally advanced disease, surgical resection with pancreaticoduodenectomy is the standard of care and results in improved 5-year survival of 15-25%. While mortality at high-volume centers is less than 5%, morbidity remains high at approximately 30-45%. This paper reviews technical aspects of pancreaticoduodenectomy and their outcomes. Specifically, we review technique and the outcome literature on vascular reconstruction, attempts to decrease delayed gastric emptying (DGE), including pylorus-preserving versus classic pancreaticoduodenectomy and gastrojejunostomy (GJ) technique, as well as attempts to decrease the rate of pancreatic fistula, including the use of pancreatic stents, fibrin sealant, and pancreaticojejunostomy (PJ) technique. Vascular resection and reconstruction have been associated with increased morbidity and mortality. However, the literature suggests that if it allows for an R0 resection, the survival is improved with comparable complication rates. DGE, one of the most common post-pancreaticoduodenectomy complications, has not been reliably decreased with various technical modifications of the GJ. The incidence of pancreatic fistula, one of the most morbid postoperative complications, is not definitively reduced by either the use of pancreatic stents or fibrin sealant. Additional research is needed to determine methods to further decrease rates of morbidity.
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