The pancreas is a digestive system gland made up of two types of cells: one produces digestive juices and the other releases hormones to regulate blood sugar levels. Another digestive fluid called bile, produced by the liver, travels down the common bile duct, which passes through the head of the pancreas and joins the pancreatic duct to empty into the first part of the small intestine. Cancerous growths of the pancreas can block the flow of bile, leading to infection, pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin due to failure in the removal of the pigment bilirubin through bile). Pancreatic bypass is a surgery performed to reroute the flow of bile into the small intestine, bypassing the pancreatic tumour.
Pancreatic bypass is a palliative surgery where the procedure is performed not to cure but to relieve or prevent symptoms.
Pancreatic bypass surgery is performed under general anaesthesia. A long incision or a few smaller incisions (laparoscopic) are made and the tumour located. Your surgeon makes a cut in the bile duct, just above the region of blockage and connects the cut section to the small intestine. Pancreatic bypass surgery may be combined with a gastric bypass, where the end of the stomach is cut from the first part of the intestine and joined farther down. This is usually done as a preventive surgery as the pancreatic cancer can progress to block the first part of the intestine.