Does regional variation impact decision-making in the management and palliation of pancreatic head adenocarcinoma? Results from an international survey

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Abstract

Background

Management and palliation of pancreatic head adenocarcinoma is challenging. End-of-life decision-making is a variable process involving multiple factors.

Methods

We conducted a qualitative, physician-based, 40-question international survey characterizing the impact of medical, religious, social, training and system factors on care.

Results

A total of 258 international clinicians completed the survey. Respondents were typically fellowship-trained (78%), with a mean of 16 years’ experience in a university-affiliated (93%) hepato-pancreato-biliary group (96%) practice. Most (91%) believed resection is potentially curative. Most patients were discussed preoperatively by multi-disciplinary teams (94%) and medical assessment clinics (68%), but rarely critical care (21%). Intraoperative surgical palliation included double bypass or no intervention for locally advanced nonresectable tumours (41% and 49% v. 14% and 85%, respectively, for patients with hepatic metastases). Postoperative admission to the intensive care unit was frequent (58%). Severe postoperative complications were often treated with aggressive cardiopulmonary resuscitation, intubation and critical care (96%), with no defined time points for futility (74%). Admitting surgeons guided most end-of-life decisions (97%). Formal medical futility laws were rarely available (26%). Insurance status did not alter treatment (97%) or palliation (95%) in non–universal care regions. Clinician experience, regional culture and training background impacted treatment (all p < 0.05).

Conclusion

Despite remarkable overall agreement, geographic and training differences are evident in the treatment and palliation of pancreatic head adenocarcinoma.

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