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The aim of this study was designed to determine whether the period of drain insertion influences the incidence of postoperative complications.The significance of prophylactic drains after pancreatic head resection is still controversial. No report discusses the association of the period of drain insertion and postoperative complications.A total of 104 consecutive patients who underwent pancreatic head resection were enrolled in this study. To assess the value of prophylactic drains, we prospectively assigned the patients into 2 groups: group I underwent resection from January 2000 to January 2002 (n = 52, drain to be removed on postoperative day 8); group II underwent resection from February 2002 to December 2004 (n = 52, drain to be removed on postoperative day 4). Postoperative complications in the 2 groups were compared.The rate of pancreatic fistula was significantly lower in group II (3.6%) than in group I (23%) (P = 0.0038). The rate of intra-abdominal infections, including intra-abdominal abscess and infected intra-abdominal collections, was significantly reduced in group II (7.7%) compared with group I (38%) (P = 0.0003). Eighteen of 52 (34.6%) patients in group I had an inserted drain beyond 8 days, whereas only 2 of 52 (3.7%) patients in group II had an inserted drain beyond 4 days (P = 0.0002). Cultures of drainage fluid were positive in 16 of 52 (30.8%) patients in group I, and in 2 of 52 (3.7%) patients in group II (P = 0.0002). Intraoperative bleeding (>1500 mL), operative time (>420 minutes, and the period of drain insertion were significant risk factors for intra-abdominal infections (P = 0.043, 0.025, 0.0003, respectively). The period of drain insertion was the only independent risk factor for intra-abdominal infections by multivariate analysis (odds ratio, 6.7).Drain removal on postoperative day 4 was shown to be an independent factor in reducing the incidence of complications with pancreatic head resection, including intra-abdominal infections.