Endotherapy for Pancreatic Fistulae: Inside Out or Outside In?

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How therapeutic endoscopy has changed! As participants and observers of the evolution of endotherapy, one has to marvel at the progress we have made in this field. We have withstood mild outrage of our description of precut sphincterotomy, to questions regarding the efficacy of balloon dilators for the bile and pancreatic duct sphincters, to outspoken objections at national meetings of our presentations describing the use of pancreatic stents for the treatment of various forms of pancreatitis, to the expectation of greater progress and advancement in the field. We routinely drain pseudocysts, stent disrupted pancreatic ducts, but, now, we commend the innovators from Erasme Hospital in Brussels for their newly described technique of completing an endoscopic rendezvous procedure performed through an external pancreatic fistula (EPF). In this new technique, an endoscopist, who is observing the progress of a percutaneous puncture through an EPF, positions an endoscope in the stomach or small bowel lumen while assisting another endoscopist (not a radiologist) who is advancing catheters and guide wires through the fistulous tract (a virtual cyst demonstrated by EUS) so that the assistant can guide the operator's puncture through the gut wall into the bowel lumen in order to deploy an internal stent to allow the normal flow or egress of pancreatic juices into the gut facilitating the closure of the fistula. Although the procedure is time-consuming and probably not cost-effective for the free enterprise reimbursement system in the United States, the results of this procedure, in a small number of patients over a long time period, were as effective as surgery. Our hats are off to those who continue to explore the outer limits of endotherapy, and we look forward to more exciting, unquestioned developments in the field. This is progress.

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