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June 1994

Pancreatic Cancer: Cytologic Study of Peritoneal Washings

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Surgery (Drs Lei and Howard) and Pathology (Dr Lei), Toledo Hospital; the Departments of Pathology (Dr Kini) and Surgery (Dr Howard), the Medical College of Ohio Hospital; and the Department of Surgery, Mercy Hospital (Dr Howard), Toledo, Ohio.

Arch Surg. 1994;129(6):639-642. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1994.01420300083013

Objective:  To delineate the frequency and significance of free cancer cells in the peritoneal cavity of patients with pancreatic exocrine adenocarcinoma.

Design:  Randomly selected patients with pancreatic cancer had peritoneal washings performed at the beginning and conclusion of laparotomy. Results of cytologic studies were correlated with the clinical findings, size, spread, and resectability of the tumor and with the survival time of the patient. All patients were followed up until the present or until their deaths.

Setting:  Tertiary care, referral hospitals in Toledo, Ohio.

Patients:  Only patients with biopsy-proven adenocarcinoma of the pancreas were included. Thirty-six patients, yielding 62 specimens for cytologic study, were included.

Intervention:  Peritoneal washings were performed at the beginning and completion of laparotomy. Each washing was evaluated independently by two skilled cytologists. If present, ascites was quantitated and studied cytologically. Biopsy specimens were obtained in each patient at the time of the study.

Main Outcome Measurements:  Presence or absence of malignant cells in peritoneal fluid; maximal diameter, grade, and spread of cancer; presence and volume of ascitic fluid; resectability of cancer; and length of survival of the patient.

Result:  Of the 36 patients studied, three had positive cytologic findings. All three had peritoneal carcinomatosis. Of 11 patients with ascites, only one had positive cytologic findings.

Conclusions:  Results of cytologic studies of peritoneal washings or of ascitic fluid are seldom positive with pancreatic exocrine carcinoma. When positive, they denote a very grave prognosis.(Arch Surg. 1994;129:639-642)

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