Drain use in pancreatic surgery: Results from an international survey among experts in the field

Pergolini, I., Schorn, S., Goess, R., Novotny, A. R., Ceyhan, G. O., Friess, H., International Pancreatic Surgery, C., and Demir, I. E. (2022). Surgery 172, 265-272. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2021.11.023


Background: Drain use in pancreatic surgery remains controversial. This survey sought to evaluate habits, experiences, and opinions of experts in the field on the use of drains to provide interesting insights for pancreatic surgeons worldwide.

Methods: An online survey designed via Google Forms was sent in December 2020 to experienced surgeons of the International Study Group for Pancreatic Surgery.

Results: Forty-two surgeons (42/63, 67%) completed the survey. During their career, 74% (31/42) performed personally >500 pancreatic resections; of these, 9 (21%) >1,500. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents (29/42) declared to always use drains during pancreatic resections and 17% (7/42) in >50% of the operations. For these participants, the use of drains does not increase but reduces the risk of pancreatic fistula and other complications, and more importantly, helps to detect them earlier and manage them better. By contrast, 2 surgeons (5%) declared to never apply drains, whereas other 4 (10%) use drains only in selective cases, deeming that drains increase the risk of infection and other complications. When applied, drains are managed very heterogeneously as for the type of drains, enzyme testing, and removal schedules. Four participants declared to practice continuous irrigation. Twenty-two surgeons (55%) remove drains routinely within the third postoperative day, other 11 (27.5%) only in selected cases, whereas 7 (17.5%) normally keep drains longer.

Conclusion: Despite plenty of publications on this topic, drain management in pancreatic surgery remains very heterogeneous. Safety and the surgeon´s personal experience seem to play a determining role.