A risk-adjusted analysis of drain use in pancreaticoduodenectomy: Some is good, but more may not be better


Background: Intraperitoneal drain placement decreases morbidity and mortality in patients who develop a clinically relevant postoperative pancreatic fistula (CR-POPF) following pancreaticoduodenectomy (PD). It is unknown whether multiple drains mitigate CR-POPF better than a single drain. We hypothesize that multiple drains decrease the complication burden more than a single drain in cases at greater risk for CR-POPF.

Methods: The Fistula Risk Score (FRS), mitigation strategies (including number of drains placed), and clinical outcomes were obtained from a multi-institutional database of PDs performed from 2003 to 2020. Outcomes were compared between cases utilizing 0, 1, or 2 intraperitoneal drains. Multivariable regression analysis was used to evaluate the optimal drainage approach.

Results: A total of 4,292 PDs used 0 (7.3%), 1 (45.2%), or 2 (47.5%) drains with an observed CR-POPF rate of 9.6%, which was higher in intermediate/high FRS zone cases compared with negligible/low FRS zone cases (13% vs 2.4%, P < .001). The number of drains placed also correlated with FRS zone (median of 2 in intermediate/high vs 1 in negligible/low risk cases). In intermediate/high risk cases, the use of 2 drains instead of 1 was not associated with a reduced rate of CR-POPF, average complication burden attributed to a CR-POPF, reoperations, or mortality. Obviation of drains was associated with significant increases in complication burden and mortality – regardless of the FRS zone.

Conclusion: In intermediate/high risk zone cases, placement of a single drain or multiple drains appears to mitigate the complication burden while use of no drains is associated with inferior outcomes.