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. The leaf-shaped gland is differentiated into the head, neck, body and tail regions. Inflammation, trauma and cancer of the pancreas usually require the removal of the pancreas. The surgical removal of the pancreas is known as pancreatectomy. There are different techniques of pancreatectomy depending on the region affected. Whipple procedure or pancreaticoduodenectomy is one of the most common procedures indicated for the removal of the head of the pancreas.
The Whipple procedure is a complex surgery performed under general anaesthesia. During the procedure, your surgeon makes an incision and removes the head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, duodenum, a part of the bile duct, and sometimes a part of the stomach. The surrounding lymph nodes may also be removed to prevent the spread of the cancer. The remaining bile duct, intestine and pancreas are then reconnected so that pancreatic enzymes and bile can flow into the intestines.
The surgery is considered as the only potential cure for pancreatic cancer, and you are expected to recover in 2 to 6 months. However, as with any surgery, Whipple procedure may involve certain risks and complications such as difficulty in the stomach emptying itself following meals, infection, bleeding and diarrhoea.