Thoracoscopic splanchnicectomy for pain control in patients with unresectable carcinoma of the pancreas

A. Saenz, J. Kuriansky*, L. Salvador, E. Astudillo, V. Cardona, M. Shabtai, L. Fernandez-Cruz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Intractable pain is the most distressing symptom in patients suffering from unresectable pancreatic carcinoma. Palliative interventions are justified to relieve the clinical symptoms with as little interference as possible in the quality of life. The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy and safety of thoracoscopic splanchnicectomy for pain control in patients with unresectable carcinoma of the pancreas. Methods: Between May 1995 and April 1998, 24 patients (14 men and 10 women) with a mean age of 65 years (range, 30-85) suffering from intractable pain due to unresectable carcinoma of the pancreas underwent 35 thoracoscopic splanchnicectomies. All patients were opiate-dependent and unable to perform normal daily activities. Subjective evaluation of pain was measured before and after the procedure by a visual analogue score. The following parameters were also evaluated; procedure-related morbidity and mortality, operative time, and length of hospital stay. Results: All procedures were completed thoracoscopically, and no intraoperative complications occurred. The mean operative time was 58 ± 22 min for unilateral left splanchnicectomy and 93.5 ± 15.6 min for bilateral splanchnicectomies. The median value of preoperative pain intensity reported by patients on a visual analogue score was 8.5 (range, 8-10). Postoperatively, pain was totally relieved in all patients, as measured by reduced analgesic use. However, four patients experienced intercostal pain after bilateral procedures, even though their abdominal pain had disappeared. Complete pain relief until death was achieved in 20 patients (84%). Morbidity consisted of persistent pleural effusion in one patient and residual pneumothorax in another. The mean hospital stay was 3 days (range, 2-5). Conclusions: We found thoracoscopic splanchnicectomy to be a safe and effective procedure of treating malignant intractable pancreatic pain. It eliminates the need for progressive doses of analgesics, with their side effects, and allows recovery of daily activity. The efficacy of this procedure is of major importance since life expectancy in these patients is very short.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-720
Number of pages4
JournalSurgical Endoscopy and Other Interventional Techniques
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Abdominal pain
  • Cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Splanchnicetomy
  • Thoracoscopic splanchnicectomy
  • Thoracoscopy


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