Mortality after pancreaticoduodenectomy: assessing early and late causes of patient death
Abstract Background Safety of pancreaticoduodenectomy has improved significantly in the past 3 decades. Current inpatient and 30-d mortality rates are low. However, incidence and causes of 90-d and 1-y mortality are poorly defined and largely unexplored. Methods All patients who had pancreaticoduodenectomy between 2007 and 2016 were included in this single institution, retrospective cohort study. Distributions of pancreaticoduodenectomy-specific morbidity and cause-specific mortality were compared between early (within 90 d) and late (91-365 d) postoperative recovery periods. Results A total of 551 pancreaticoduodenectomies were performed during the study period. Of these, 6 (1.1%), 20 (3.6%), and 91 (16.5%) patients died within 30, 90, and 365 d after pancreaticoduodenectomy, respectively. Causes of early and late mortality varied significantly (all P ≤ 0.032). The most common cause of death within 90 d was due to multisystem organ failure from sepsis or aspiration in 9 (45%) patients, followed by post-pancreatectomy hemorrhage in 5 (25%) patients, and cardiopulmonary arrest from myocardial infarction or pulmonary embolus in 3 (15%) patients. In contrast, recurrent cancer was the most common cause of death in 46 (65%) patients during the late postoperative period between 91 and 365 d. Mortality from failure to thrive and debility was similar between early and late postoperative periods (15% versus 19.7%, P = 0.76). Conclusions Most quality improvement initiatives in patients selected for pancreaticoduodenectomy have focused on reduction of technical complications and improvement of early postoperative mortality. Further reduction in postoperative mortality after pancreaticoduodenectomy can be achieved by improving patient selection, mitigating postoperative malnutrition, and optimizing preoperative cancer staging and management strategies.