Safe exposure of the left renal vein during laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma: anatomical variations and pitfalls



The left renal vein is technically difficult to expose during laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma despite being an important landmark for posterior dissection. We hereby propose a novel technique to safely expose the left renal vein while avoiding the associated anatomical pitfalls.


The anatomy of the left renal artery and vein was analyzed using multidetector computed tomography. We initially exposed the left renal vein on the left posterior side of the superior mesenteric artery followed by exposure toward the left kidney. We retrospectively examined the perioperative results of this technique in 33 patients who underwent laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy.


15.7% of the patients had an accessory left renal artery coursing cranial to the vein. In 43.1%, the left renal arterial branch ventrally traversed the vein at the renal hilum, thereby posing a risk for arterial injury. The location of the left renal vein varies cranial (17.6%) or caudal (82.4%) to the pancreas. The left renal vein was exposed without any vascular injury using this technique. The median operative time was 259 min, blood loss was 18 mL, and R0 resection rate was 97.0%.


The initial exposure of the left renal vein should, therefore, be on the left posterior side of the superior mesenteric artery.

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Correspondence to Yuichi Nagakawa.

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This study was approved by the institutional review board of Tokyo Medical University (number: 2018-016).

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Nishino, H., Nagakawa, Y., Takishita, C. et al. Safe exposure of the left renal vein during laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma: anatomical variations and pitfalls. Surg Today (2020).

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  • Pancreatic adenocarcinoma
  • Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy
  • Left renal vein
  • Left renal artery
  • Posterior dissection