Approximately 20% of patients with acute pancreatitis develop pancreatic necrosis, which is often complicated by secondary infection. This is a serious condition, which continues to have a death-rate of between 10% and 40% despite concerted efforts. Traditionally, management was aggressive, with open necrosectomy, but this has developed into an approach of watchful waiting, attempting to postpone surgery until necrosis can be better controlled. More recently, video-assisted retroperitoneal debridement (VARD) has become available as a minimally invasive surgical option, with the theoretical advantage of causing less trauma to these already severely ill patients. Van Santvoort et al. conducted a multicentre randomized study comparing open necrosectomy with a step-up approach consisting of percutaneous drainage followed, if necessary, by VARD. They show that a composite endpoint, consisting of major morbidity factors and mortality, occurs significantly less in the step-up approach, i.e. 40% versus 69%. Interestingly, 35% of patients in the step-up approach group were adequately treated without the need of a subsequent VARD procedure. An important subsidiary effect of this study is that care for patients with acute pancreatitis has been significantly improved, as a result of cooperation between academic and community hospitals within the Dutch Acute Pancreatitis Study Group: an expert team of experienced surgeons, specialists in gastroenterology and hepatology, and radiologists provide advice within 24 hours. Those patients in whom the disease has a complicated course can be transferred to specialised centres of treatment.