Evaluation of: van Santvoort HC, Besselink MG, Bakker OJ et al. A step-up approach or open necrosectomy for necrotizing pancreatitis. N. Engl. J. Med. 362, 1491-1502 (2010). Pancreatic necrosis, a complication of severe pancreatitis, may become infected, resulting in significant morbidity and potential mortality. Infected necrosis was heretofore considered a surgical condition, and despite aggressive operative management, the mortality remained high. With a better understanding of the natural history of necrosis, established methods to diagnose infection and the increasing use of minimally invasive techniques, less aggressive therapies have been utilized with some success. The present study evaluated a step-up approach for the treatment of infected pancreatic necrosis, utilizing endoscopic and percutaneous techniques, and if ineffective, necrosectomy with a minimally invasive retroperitoneal approach. They compared this step-up approach to the standard open necrosectomy. They demonstrated that when using such an approach compared with open necrosectomy, the frequency of major complications such as organ failure, perforation, fistula or even death was significantly less than in those who received conventional open necrosectomy. Indeed, for those randomized to the step-up approach, roughly a third of the patients were successfully treated with percutaneous drainage alone. In the long-term, development of diabetes was also less frequent in those receiving less aggressive therapy. These findings, in combination with other reports, suggest that the dogma that open necrosectomy is mandatory for all patients with infected necrosis should be re-evaluated, and that less aggressive treatments as part of a multidisciplinary approach can reduce morbidity and mortality. © 2010 Expert Reviews Ltd.