Considerations in laparoscopic resection of giant pancreatic cystic neoplasms : Journal of Minimal Access Surgery

Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Original Article

Considerations in laparoscopic resection of giant pancreatic cystic neoplasms

Gadiyaram, Srikanth; Nachiappan, Murugappan; Thota, Ravi Kiran

Author Information
Journal of Minimal Access Surgery 18(4):p 519-525, Oct–Dec 2022. | DOI: 10.4103/jmas.jmas_164_21
  • Open



Laparoscopic distal pancreatic resection was reported by Gagner et al. in the 90s.[1] The feasibility and safety of this procedure with results comparable to open procedure have been reported by multiple groups.[2] International study group on minimally invasive pancreas surgery in the Miami International Evidence-based guidelines recommended that minimally invasive distal pancreatectomy should be considered over open distal pancreatectomy for benign and low-grade malignant tumours (Grade 1b recommendation).[3] Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy (LDP) with (LDPS) or without splenectomy for cystic tumours in the body and tail has become the standard of care.[4] Data on patients with large tumours of the body and tail of the pancreas is sparse. We describe a short series of giant pancreatic cystic neoplasms (GPCN), namely operative challenges and how they are overcome and follow-up in patients undergoing a laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy.


Records of patients who underwent LDPS for giant cystic tumours (≥8 cm in diameter) by first author since 2010 were reviewed. Clinical profile, imaging studies, operation details and postoperative course of these patients were studied. Follow-up was recorded at periodic outpatient visits. Details of exocrine, endocrine deficiency were recorded. A telephonic follow-up was done in all patients on 1 May, 2021. All patients received pre-operative pre-splenectomy prophylaxis. Patients were operated under general anaesthesia in a leg-split position with the operating surgeon standing between the legs, LDPS was done using a five-port technique [Figure 1]. The operative procedure was accomplished as follows.

Figure 1:
(a) Standard port placement for distal pancreatectomy, (b) Modified port placement for a giant pancreatic cystic neoplasm with camera shifted to the right side of the umbilicus and right-hand working port at the umbilicus, (c) Operative theatre setting showing the position of the patient and the operating team. C: Camera, R: Right-hand working port, LS: Left-hand working port, A: Retraction port, also used for stapling, LR: Assistant retraction port

Step 1. Closed pneumoperitoneum (14 mm Hg), Camera port inserted and rest of the ports under laparoscopic vision

Step 2. Opening of lesser sac by dividing the gastrocolic omentum using Harmonic ACE (Ethicon) or LigaSure™ (Medtronic Inc) when collateral vessels of 4-5 mm were encountered. A wide exposure of lesser sac is got by placement of gastric retraction suture as described by Srikanth et al.[5]

Step 3. Splenic artery is dissected and ligated in continuity.

Step 4. Dissection begun along inferior border of pancreatic body region, and splenic flexure was taken down.

Step 5. Developing the tunnel posterior to neck of pancreas and looping it, followed by staple transection with Endo GIA™ Auto Suture™ Universal Articulating Load (60 mm-3.5 mm) in four of our patients and Endo GIA™ 60 mm Articulating Reload with Tri-Staple™ technology (Medium/Thick) in the remaining one. In one patient, the pancreatic body was staple transected to the left of superior mesenteric–portal vein, including the splenic vein but excluding the splenic artery and our preference for stapling cartridge was not influenced by this. In the rest, the transection of neck was achieved separately and splenic vessels were dealt with as under. Stapling of the pancreatic neck was done gradually after tightening and compression for 1 min followed by firing over 30 s and the transection over the next 15 s. SEAMGUARD™ staple line reinforcement was used in two patients during staple transection.

Step 6. Splenic vein and artery are secured with ligatures/hem-o-lok clips.

Step 7. Mobilisation in a 'medial to lateral' fashion in an avascular retroperitoneal plane behind pancreatic body and tail till lienorenal ligament, which is divided subsequently. LigaSure™ was used when collaterals were encountered. A blunt tipped instrument is passed from epigastrium and directed towards lower pole of spleen and posterior to the cyst to lift the distal pancreas, cyst and spleen 'en bloc' in the cranial direction gently. This facilitates medial to lateral dissection.

Step 8. Short gastric vessels are divided, and the specimen is bagged.

Step 9. Haemostasis, irrigation and suctioning followed by drain placement (28F tube) next to the transected border of pancreas.

Step 10. Retrieval of specimen was done through Pfannenstiel incision in two and subcostal incision (5–6 cm, by joining left midclavicular and left anterior axillary port sites) in the remaining three.

Step 11. Closure of extraction wound site in layers (muscle with running No1 PDS). Sheath at port sites (size 10 mm and 12 mm) closed with no1 vicryl suture. Skin was stapled.


Forty-one patients underwent distal pancreatectomy during the study period. Of these 41 patients, 26 had a laparoscopic resection and two of them required a conversion to open operation (both cases of neuroendocrine tumours). There were fourteen patients of cystic neoplasms and all of them had a successful laparoscopic resection. Out of these fourteen patients, five patients had a lesion more than 8 cm and formed the part of this study. Demographic features and clinical profile of patients are shown in Table 1. The mean cyst size was 11.2 cm (range 8–15 cm). The first two patients presented with pain abdomen which led to detection of the cystic tumours on ultrasound (USG). Cases 3 and 4 were asymptomatic and detected on USG during routine health check. Case 5 presented with a history of pain abdomen with radiation to back of 10 days duration. Multi detector computed tomography (MDCT) and magnetic resonance imaging with cholangio-pancreatography (MRI with MRCP) were performed in all patients.

Table 1:
Demographic and clinical profile of patients

All patients had the splenic artery stretched out around the cranial parts of the lesion. Splenic vein was stretched and displaced in the first two and thrombosed in the last three patients. An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy was done in all patients. Two of the three patients with splenic vein thrombosis had gastric varices. However, none of them had a history of bleed or was anaemic at presentation. An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) was performed in four patients. None of the patients had a dilated pancreatic duct. The imaging characteristics clearly suggested serous cystadenoma (SCN) in one solid cystic papillary neoplasm (SCPN) in two and mucinous cystic neoplasm in two others [Figure 2]. All procedures were completed successfully by laparoscopy [Figures 3 and 4]. Operative details, postoperative morbidity and histopathology of resected specimens are shown in Table 2.

Figure 2:
(a) Contrast-enhanced computed tomography of a solid cystic papillary neoplasm replacing the entire body and tail of the pancreas showing stretched out splenic vein, (b) Contrast-enhanced computed tomography of a large mucinous cystic neoplasm abutting the portal vein and in close proximity to the superior mesenteric artery, (c) Endoscopic ultrasound of a serous cystic neoplasm demonstrating honeycombing
Figure 3:
Operative photographs (a) Retro-pancreatic tunnel developed at the region of the pancreatic neck anterior to the portal vein, (b) Transection of pancreatic neck, (c) looping of the splenic vein close to its drainage into the portal vein, note the space constraint in the presence of a large pancreatic cyst, (d) ligation of the splenic artery after transection of the pancreatic neck
Figure 4:
(a) Extraction of solid cystic papillary neoplasm by a subcostal incision, (b) cut open specimen of a solid cystic papillary neoplasm, (c) cut open specimen of a mucinous cystic neoplasm
Table 2:
Operative details, postoperative morbidity and histopathology

All five patients made an uneventful postoperative recovery. None of the patients received peri-operative somatostatin analogues. Oral intake was started on 1st postoperative day and surgical drain was removed by the 3rd postoperative in 4 out of 5 patients and 6th postoperative day in one (at first follow-up visit). She had a biochemical leak which settled with conservative management. There were no wound infections or pancreatic fistulae. An upper GI endoscopy was done at 3 months in both the patients with gastric varices. It showed resolution of varices in both. On follow up of 89 months (range 1–120 months), two patients developed diabetes, one at 6 months and the other at 2 years after surgery. None of them had exocrine deficiency. There has been no OPSI in any of these patients till date.


LDP has become the standard of care in patients with cystic neoplasms and neuroendocrine tumors of body/tail of the pancreas and the indications are expanding to include adenocarcinoma of body/tail pancreas in carefully selected patients.[46] There are few case reports of LDP for large pancreatic cystic neoplasms.[78910] There has been a bias towards open surgery in managing large cyst of the pancreas with case series showing the significant difference in size of the cyst between open and laparoscopy.[11] This is because of technical difficulties with the laparoscopic approach related to large size resulting in limited 'working space', difficult ergonomics, risk of rupture, potentially greater bleed in those with sinistral portal hypertension and difficulty to control a bleed because of space constraints. Therefore, there are several pertinent questions to be answered while dealing with these tumours. First, is it technically feasible? Second, is spleen preservation possible? Third, what would be the surgical modifications required if the laparoscopic approach is chosen? Fourth, since larger tumours are likely to have splenic vein thrombosis, would the presence of sinistral portal hypertension contraindicate a laparoscopic approach? and finally, how does it compare with the open operation regarding postoperative outcomes?

Is it technically feasible?

Feasibility has been reported by others.[8910] Dissection of pancreatic neck and transection, dissection of splenic vessels in this region are key steps. A careful study of the imaging preoperatively is mandatory in achieving these key steps.

Splenic artery ligation in continuity is as an initial step prior to mobilising the pancreatic neck or the dissection of the splenoportal confluence. This inflow control helps in decompressing the spleen. This was done in four out of five patients. Splenic vein could be en masse staple transected along with the pancreatic body after excluding the splenic artery.[12] This would be useful in patients with splenic vein thrombosis, compressed/stretched splenic vein or if parenchymal preservation is contemplated because of the distal disposition of the lesion. This is a topic of research in an ongoing randomised controlled trial.[13] En masse ligation allows pancreatic parenchymal preservation when the lesions do not extend up to the pancreatic neck, thus decreasing the chances of post-operative exocrine/endocrine insufficiency. We adopted this technique of transecting the pancreas along with the splenic vein in one of our patients. The rest of the dissection is 'medial to lateral' essentially in an avascular plane, albeit dealing with the larger specimen. Modifications in port position (vide infra) were an additional requirement that enabled successful laparoscopic completion of the procedure in all five of our patients.

It is our opinion that a laparoscopic approach should be possible in the vast majority where the expertise is available and might be contraindicated in those with portal hypertension with collaterals in the region (neck/head of pancreas) making the dissection dangerous. This, however, was not the case in all the three patients in our series with sinistral portal hypertension.

Is spleen preservation possible?

Laparoscopic spleen preservation during DP is possible in PCN involving body and tail of pancreas adopting the Kimura or Warshaw techniques.[1415] However, in patients with GPCN, a significant stretch of the splenic vessels over a large cyst and encroachment into splenic hilum make splenic preservation technically difficult utilizing either of the approaches. In addition, splenic vein thrombosis and sinistral portal hypertension are common in these tumours, mandating a splenectomy as part of procedure. Finally, attempts at splenic preservation are fraught with a risk of major haemorrhage. Therefore, the strategy in these patients would be to vaccinate them and plan a distal pancreatectomy with splenectomy.

What would be the surgical modifications required if the laparoscopic approach is chosen?

In patients with large pancreatic cystic tumours, the smaller working space could pose difficulties in vision, tumour coming in the way of operating instruments risking inadvertent rupture, inadequate retraction and a serious risk of haemorrhage and inability to control the same. Shifting of operative ports to the right, as shown in Figure 1, would ensure proper vision, appropriate ergonomics for operating instruments and increase the success of achieving the important steps. Division of the pancreatic neck and securing the splenic vessels makes the rest of the operation relatively blood less.

Some groups have suggested initial aspiration to collapse the cyst. Aspiration is done laparoscopically or after making a small incision over the left hypochondrium as reported by Nakamura et al.[78] Potential risks with aspiration include the spillage of the contents which in cases of malignant cysts can lead to dissemination, also a collapsed cyst makes the dissection difficult by obscuring the anatomical planes. A few others have suggested aspiration of the lesion post-resection before retrieval after bagging the specimen, which we have used in two of our patients.[910] In a large cyst occupying the entire upper abdomen, an initial aspiration may be required to create the required working space.

Would sinistral portal hypertension contraindicate a laparoscopic operation?

Careful study of preoperative MDCT/MRI images should give an idea regarding the distribution of peri-gastric, peri-splenic and lieno-renal collaterals and should help in selecting patients for a laparoscopic approach. None of the three patients in our series had collaterals in the region around pancreatic neck and the procedure went without undue difficulty. The large collaterals in the gastrocolic omentum, however, needed careful division with a LigaSure early during operation while opening the lesser sac and similar division of short gastric vessels in the latter part of dissection had to be performed diligently. It is our opinion that LDPS can be safely performed in patients with sinistral portal hypertension. It would be prudent to keep a low threshold for conversion to an open procedure when difficulty in dissection, bleed is encountered. Furthermore, as highlighted before, it would seem unwise to plan a laparoscopic operation when there is a more extensive thrombosis involving portal vein and those with collaterals around pancreatic head/neck regions.

How does it compare with the open operation with regards to postoperative outcomes?

LDP has become the standard of care for resection of benign and selected malignant tumours of the body and tail of the pancreas. In GPCN, the large size often requires a sizeable incision to deliver the specimen. This cannot be an argument to contraindicate the laparoscopic approach if one were to extrapolate experience in data available on laparoscopic colorectal resection having superior outcomes with laparoscopic-assisted resections for colon cancer versus open surgery.[16] The size of the incision of the extraction site did not affect the perioperative outcomes in those undergoing laparoscopic colorectal resections.[17] Pancreatic leak and fistula are a major concern following distal pancreatectomy. The small number of patients in the current study would make it difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions related to pancreatic fistula in these patients. However, considering that the pancreatic transection in these patients is dealt with in a way not different from those undergoing laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy in general, we feel that the incidence and outcomes in those developing pancreatic fistula would be similar. A large size of the PCN alone, should, therefore, not be a contraindication to the laparoscopic approach for surgeons with experience in laparoscopic pancreatic surgery [Figure 5].

Figure 5:
Suggested algorithm of management of a giant pancreatic cystic neoplasm

In summary, our series of patients with GPCN had a favourable outcome with LDPS. A detailed preoperative imaging with MDCT/MRI abdomen, careful preoperative planning, presplenectomy prophylaxis, laparoscopic approach with modification of port positions, appropriate use of energy devices, meticulous dissection to deal with the pancreatic neck division and securing splenic vessels early during operation, medial to lateral dissection were key for a successful outcome.


Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy is feasible in patients with GPCN and offers the all the short-term benefits, namely lesser pain, no wound infections, early return of bowel activity, early return to orals and early discharge and early return to work. Splenectomy was required in all patients because of splenic vein thrombosis and portal hypertension in three and for technical reasons in the rest.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1. Gagner M, Pomp A, Herrera MF. Early experience with laparoscopic resections of islet cell tumors Surgery. 1996;120:1051–4
2. Fingerhut A, Uranues S, Khatkov I, Boni L. Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy: Better than open? Transl Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018;3:49
3. Asbun HJ, Moekotte AL, Vissers FL, Kunzler F, Cipriani F, Alseidi A, et al The miami international evidence-based guidelines on minimally invasive pancreas resection Ann Surg. 2020;271:1–14
4. Wang K, Fan Y. Minimally invasive distal pancreatectomy: Review of the English literature J Laparoendosc Adv Surg Tech A. 2017;27:134–40
5. Srikanth G, Wasim MD, Sajjad A, Shetty N. Single-incision laparoscopic splenectomy with innovative gastric traction suture J Minim Access Surg. 2011;7:68–70
6. Lof S, Moekotte AL, Al-Sarireh B, Ammori B, Aroori S, Durkin D, et al Multicentre observational cohort study of implementation and outcomes of laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy Br J Surg. 2019;106:1657–65
7. Ohtsuka T, Takahata S, Takanami H, Ueda J, Mizumoto K, Shimizu S, et al Laparoscopic surgery is applicable for larger mucinous cystic neoplasms of the pancreas J Hepatobiliary Pancreat Sci. 2014;21:343–8
8. Nakamura Y, Matsumoto S, Tajiri T, Uchida E. Safe technique for laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy involving a large cystic tumor J Nippon Med Sch. 2011;78:374–8
9. Mizutani S, Nakamura Y, Ogata M, Watanabe M, Tokunaga A, Tajiri T. A case of giant mucinous cystic neoplasm of the pancreas resected with laparoscopic surgery J Nippon Med Sch. 2009;76:212–6
10. Nagakawa Y, Hosokawa Y, Sahara Y, Takishita C, Nakajima T, Hijikata Y, et al Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy without needle aspiration before resection for giant mucinous cell neoplasms Asian J Endosc Surg. 2016;9:75–8
11. Casadei R, Ricci C, D'Ambra M, Marrano N, Alagna V, Rega D, et al Laparoscopic versus open distal pancreatectomy in pancreatic tumours: A case-control study Updates Surg. 2010;62:171–4
12. Shimizu S, Tanaka M, Konomi H, Mizumoto K, Yamaguchi K. Laparoscopic pancreatic surgery: Current indications and surgical results Surg Endosc. 2004;18:402–6
13. Yamada S, Fujii T, Kawai M, Shimokawa T, Nakamura M, Murakami Y, et al Splenic vein resection together with the pancreatic parenchyma versus separated resection after isolation of the parenchyma during distal pancreatectomy (COSMOS-DP trial): Study protocol for a randomised controlled trial Trials. 2018;19:369
14. Kimura W, Inoue T, Futakawa N, Shinkai H, Han I, Muto T. Spleen-preserving distal pancreatectomy with conservation of the splenic artery and vein Surgery. 1996;120:885–90
15. Warshaw AL. Conservation of the spleen with distal pancreatectomy Arch Surg. 1988;123:550–3
16. Jayne DG, Thorpe HC, Copeland J, Quirke P, Brown JM, Guillou PJ. Five-year follow-up of the medical research council CLASICC trial of laparoscopically assisted versus open surgery for colorectal cancer Br J Surg. 2010;97:1638–45
17. Bouchard A, Martel G, Sabri E, Poulin EC, Mamazza J, Boushey RP. Impact of incision length on the short-term outcomes of laparoscopic colorectal surgery Surg Endosc. 2009;23:2314–20

Cystic neoplasms; distal pancreatetomy; giant pancreatic cysts; laparoscopy; pancreas; splenectomy

© 2022 Journal of Minimal Access Surgery | Published by Wolters Kluwer – Medknow