Carcinoma of the ampulla of Vater: A tumour with a poor prognosis?

Richard J. Farrell, Noirin Noonan, Imran M. Khan, Michael Goggins, Dermot P. Kelleher, Paul W.N. Keeling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess the overall prognosis of patients with ampullary carcinomas and evaluate the presentation, diagnosis, pathology and management of these potentially highly curable tumours, attempting to relate these factors to overall survival. Patients and methods: Forty patients with ampullary carcinoma were reviewed. Age, sex, nature and duration of history, laboratory information at admission, results of diagnostic radiology, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatograms and pathological findings were considered. Both curative and palliative management strategies were reviewed. Results: The overall median survival was 19 months. The median duration of history was 5.9 ± 5.4 weeks, with no significant difference in survival between patients with short and those with long histories (P = 0.46). Twenty-nine (73%) patients were potentially resectable, but only 15 (37%) underwent potentially curative surgery. The difference in survival between the Whipple's (13) and the endoscopically stented (20) groups was not significant (P = 0.08). The Whipple's group were significantly younger than the stented group (P = 0.001) and had a significant operative morbidity, re-operation rate (38%) and post-operative mortality (15%). Only five of 13 patients were alive following Whipple's treatment after a mean follow-up of 18.9 months. Sphincterotomy before Whipple's treatment improved survival significantly (P = 0.04); absence of jaundice, exophytic macroscopic appearance, well-differentiated tumours and early stage were also associated with good survival. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography has a high diagnostic yield and a low associated morbidity and mortality, with endoscopic papillectomy aiding cannulation while effective palliation was provided through stenting, endoscopic papillectomy and laser debulking of obstructing tumours. Little benefit was obtained from chemoradiotherapy. Conclusion: Despite the potential for curative resection in patients with ampullary carcinoma, the majority of such patients are unsuitable for curative surgery on grounds of age, general health status or advanced disease; since only 37% of patients undergo potentially curative surgery the condition has a poor prognosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-144
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Ampullary carcinoma
  • Chemo-radiotherapy
  • Endoscopic papillectomy
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
  • Endoscopic stenting
  • Sphincterotomy
  • Whipple's operation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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