Laparoscopic evaluation of patients with suspected periampullary malignancies has been utilized more frequently in recent years. Its exact role with regard to staging and surgical bypass for palliation have yet to be clearly defined. To better define the role of laparoscopy in the evaluation and palliation of periampullary malignancy, a retrospective review of the Duke experience was carried out. Fifty-three patients with suspected pancreatic or periampullary malignancies were referred for surgical evaluation at Duke University Medical Center between 1993 and 1995. All patients underwent CT scanning and lesions were classified as resectable or unresectable based on previously established criteria. Patients either underwent laparoscopic evaluation (n = 30; 11 with laparoscopic palliation) or proceeded directly to celiotomy (n = 23). Charts were reviewed for postoperative course including complications, length of stay, and hospital costs. Although laparoscopy had a sensitivity of 93.3% for metastatic disease, CT scans accurately staged 86.8% of patients missing only one patient with peritoneal/hepatic disease. Based on these results, laparoscopy may not be beneficial for every patient with a suspected pancreatic malignancy. Retrospectively an attempt was made to determine which patients benefited from laparoscopy and which patients are best served by proceeding directly to open exploration. From these data we devised an algorithm that outlines an efficient and cost-effective approach for this patient population.
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