The role of operative intervention for hereditary pancreatitis, a rare form of chronic parenchymal destruction, is unclear. To determine whether surgical therapy is safe and provides prolonged symptomatic relief, the authors reviewed the management of 22 adults (11 men, 11 women) with hereditary pancreatitis treated surgically between 1950 and 1989. Hereditary pancreatitis was defined as a family history of two or more relatives with pancreatitis and clinical, biochemical, or radiologic evidence of pancreatitis. The mean ages at onset of symptoms and at operation were 15 years (range, 3 to 52 years) and 31 years (range, 18 to 54 years), respectively. Pain was the primary indication for operation in all patients. Additional symptoms included nausea, vomiting (73%), weight loss (55%), and diarrhea (41%). Ductal dilatation was present in 68%, pancreatic parenchymal calcifications in 73%, pseudocysts in 36%, and splenic vein thrombosis in 18%. Primary operations included ductal drainage in 10 patients, pancreatic resection alone in three, resection with drainage in three, cholecystectomy plus sphincteroplasty in two, cholecystectomy with or without common bile duct exploration in two, pancreatic abscess drainage in one, and pseudocyst drainage in one. There were no perioperative deaths, and the morbidity rate was 14% (intra-abdominal abscess, wound infection, and urinary tract infection). Symptoms recurred in nine patients. Severity prompted reoperation in five. Secondary operations included pancreatic resection in three, pseudocyst excision in one, and pancreaticolithotomy in one. Follow-up to date is complete and extends for a median of 85 months. Eighteen patients (82%) are clinically improved or asymptomatic. Symptoms have persisted in four patients, and two patients have died of pancreatic carcinoma. Two patients died of unrelated causes. Surgical therapy for patients with hereditary pancreatitis selected on the basis of the traditional indications for surgical treatment of chronic pancreatitis is safe and efficacious.
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