Should drains suck? A propensity score analysis of closed-suction versus closed-gravity drainage after pancreatectomy


Creticos Cancer Center at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center


© 2020, The Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. Background: Post-operative pancreatic fistula (POPF) remains one of the most common complications after pancreatic surgery. We previously reported that the majority of US surgeons leave drains after pancreatectomy. However, there remains controversy and surgeon bias on the use of gravity compared with suction drainage with limited data on patient outcomes to guide management.

Methods: Demographics, comorbidities, perioperative, and outcome data were captured from the most recent ACS National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP)–targeted pancreatectomy databases. This is a retrospective cohort analysis comparing closed-suction to closed-gravity drains with multivariate analysis and propensity score matching (PSM).

Results: Of 9232 patients that underwent a pancreatectomy with closed drain placement, 1345 (15%) were to gravity and 7887 (85%) were to suction. On multivariate and PSM, stratified by surgery-type, there was no difference in biochemical leak (Whipple, 4 vs. 4%; distal, 8 vs. 6%) or clinically relevant (CR)-POPF (Whipple, 13 vs. 15%; distal, 12 vs. 15%). On multivariate analysis, there was an increase in organ-space surgical site infections with suction drains for patients undergoing Whipple procedure (12 vs. 16%, p = 0.004), which did not persist on PSM (p = 0.088). Finally, there were no significant differences in amylase level, time to drain removal, or superficial surgical site infections for patients undergoing either procedure based on drain type.

Conclusion: The majority of drains utilized after pancreatectomy in the USA are placed to suction, though a significant proportion are kept to gravity. Neither type of drain is associated with increased CR-POPF or other post-operative outcomes compared with the other; therefore, both types remain reasonable options if drains are to be placed.

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