Whipples Surgery & Distal Pancreatectomy

Whipple Procedure

The Whipple procedure (also known as pancreatoduodenectomy) is a surgical procedure used by doctors to treat patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This procedure is also performed for patients with certain benign pancreatic disorders, including chronic pancreatitis

The Whipple procedure involves the removal of the head of the pancreas, part of the duodenum; which is the uppermost portion of the small intestine, a small portion of the stomach called pylorus, the gallbladder, and the lymph nodes near the head of the pancreas

Multiple clinical studies have shown that the Whipple procedure has better survival rates for patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, compared to chemotherapy or radiotherapy alone. It is potentially a curative option for patients with pancreatic cancer. However, not all patients are suitable for Whipples procedure

Steps involved in the Whipple Procedure

Whipple procedure starts with the removal of not only the pancreas head, but also parts of the small intestine, gall bladder, bile duct, and part of the stomach. Next, the surgeon reattaches all the remaining parts of the pancreas and digestive organs, in order to facilitate recovery of normal activity of the digestive system

Who May Undergo Whipple Procedure

As the pancreas is surrounded by many vital organs and a network of blood vessels, pancreatic cancer rapidly spreads to other organs and tissues of the pancreas itself. When this occurs, it is difficult to perform the Whipple procedure for curative intent. For this reason, not all pancreatic cancer patients are eligible to undergo the Whipple procedure. It is mainly intended to help patients with cancer limited to the head of the pancreas only

Complications associated Whipple procedure

As in any surgical procedure, complications may occur. Below is a list of complications associated with the Whipple procedure

  • Bleeding
  • Pancreatic fistula with leakage from the pancreas
  • Wound infection or delayed wound healing
  • Impaired sugar control or diabetes as a consequence of removal of the pancreatic head
  • Wound pain
  • Weight loss after the procedure (most patients will lose 10-15% of their current weight)
  • Digestive disorders, such as diarrhea, improper digestion, and delayed bowel movements

If you have been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, consult your surgeon regarding the Whipple procedure