The power of suction: Theory and practice in closed suction vs gravity drains and postoperative pancreatic fistulas


      • POPF related outcomes do not vary with drainage method following pancreatic resection.
      • Gland texture, PDAC/chronic pancreatitis histology, and EBL are risk factors for POPF in all types of pancreas resection.
      • Drain method should be per surgeon preference with consideration for patient and nursing specific factors.



      Postoperative pancreatic fistula (POPF) is a feared complication in pancreatic resection. Gravity drainage (GD) is hypothesized to reduce POPF versus closed-suction drainage (CSD). We sought to evaluate this theory.


      Six-hundred-twenty-nine patients undergoing pancreatic resection between 2013 and 2020 were analyzed with multivariable logistic regression for the outcomes of POPF and clinically-relevant POPF (crPOPF).


      Three-hundred-ninety-seven patients (63.1%) underwent pancreaticoduodenectomy and 232 (36.9%) underwent distal pancreatectomy. Suction drains were placed in 588 patients (93.5%) whereas 41 (6.5%) had GDs. One-hundred-twenty-five (27.6%) experienced a POPF; 49 (10%) crPOPFs. On multivariable analysis, suction drainage was not associated with increased risk of POPF (OR 0.76, 95% CI 0.30–1.93, P = 0.57) or crPOPF (OR 0.99, 95% CI 0.30–3.26, P = 0.98).


      Suction drainage does not promote POPF when compared to GDs. Drain type should be determined by surgeon preference, while taking into account nursing and patient-specific considerations especially when patients are discharged with drains.


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