In most instances of abdominal pain associated with pancreatic cancer, pain may become refractory to increasing doses of narcotics. Celiac plexus neurolysis represents an option; however, altered celiac plexus anatomy may render this treatment infeasible or ineffective, where splanchnic nerve neurolysis may represent another option. This study aimed to investigate the outcomes of splanchnic neurolysis in pancreatic cancer patients not responsive to celiac plexus neurolysis.
Among all 84 patients who underwent celiac plexus neurolysis for pancreatic cancer pain during the study period, 34 patients did not respond and underwent splanchnic nerve neurolysis under fluoroscopic guidance and thus included in this retrospective study. Stage IV, III, and II disease was present in 38.2%, 47.1%, and 14.7% of the patients. During the study, 88.2% were receiving chemotherapy, whereas none were on radiotherapy. Data for daily narcotic dose equivalents and Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) scores during outpatient visits at baseline, 2 weeks, 2 months, and 3 months were extracted.
Pain response rates were 76.5%, 84.4%, and 71.0%, at 2 weeks, 2 months, and 3 months, respectively. A significant and dramatic reduction was seen in VAS scores at 2 weeks (2.8±1.2 versus 6.3±1.1, p<0.001), and this significant decline was maintained for 3 months. Similarly, a significant and dramatic reduction was seen in daily narcotic need at 2 weeks (20.8±32.9 versus 93.4±86.2 mg, p<0.001), which was also maintained during the 3-month follow-up. The procedure was generally well tolerated.
Findings of this study suggest that splanchnic neurolysis represents a durable and effective option for pain control in pancreatic cancer patients in whom the neurolysis of the celiac plexus is ineffective. However, these conclusions refer to only preliminary single-center results in a selected patient group; thus, further large studies are warranted.