Pancreatic complications after the distal splenorenal shunt have not been commonly recognized. Between January 1978 and June 1993, 154 patients underwent a distal splenorenal shunt, and 11 patients (7%) developed pancreatic complications, of which 4 had pancreatitis alone, and 7 developed pancreatitis‐related complications. Etiology of cirrhosis, Child's classification and timing of surgery were not predictive of pancreatic complications. Eight patients (5%) were found to have chronic pancreatitis at the time of surgery, and four of these patients (50%) developed pancreatic complications following distal splenorenal shunt. Eleven early postoperative deaths in our series resulted in an overall operative mortality rate of 7%. Of these eleven patients, 6 (55%) had postoperative pancreatic complications. The operative mortality rate of patients who developed pancreatic complications (55%) after distal splenorenal shunt was significantly greater than that of patients who did not develop pancreatic complications (3%), P < .001. When compared with patients without pancreatitis, those with pancreatitis had significantly greater incidences of complete or partial portal vein thrombosis (55% v 20%, P < .02), severe ascites (64% v 13%, P < .001), and encephalopathy (45% v 3%, P < .001). We reach the following conclusions: (1) although not a frequent complication after distal splenorenal shunt in general, pancreatitis was commonly present in early postoperative deaths and was most likely a major contributor to the demise of those patients; (2) survivors with postdistal splenorenal shunt pancreatitis had a markedly increased morbidity rate; and (3) pancreatic complications after distal splenorenal shunt are more likely to occur in patients with pre‐existing chronic pancreatitis.
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