Distal pancreatectomy

We specialise in distal pancreatectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the tail of the pancreas


A distal pancreatectomy is a surgical procedure to resect (remove) the tail of the pancreas. It is carried out if there is a tumour in the body or tail of the pancreas. Quite often, the spleen is removed as part of the procedure. However, your consultant surgeon will try to preserve it if possible. 

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    A distal pancreatectomy is normally performed as keyhole surgery. This involves your consultant surgeon making small incisions in your skin to gain access to your pancreas. Alternatively, your surgeon may choose to carry out your distal pancreatectomy as a laparoscopic procedure, where they'll make a large incision instead of multiple smaller ones. 

    After gaining access to your pancreas, your consultant surgeon will remove the tail and/or body of your pancreas, leaving the head of it intact. Your consultant surgeon may also remove your spleen. Your spleen forms part of your immune system, so your surgeon will try to preserve it if possible. 
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Only 1 in 20 people with cancer of the body or tail of the pancreas are able to have a distal pancreatectomy, Your consultant surgeon will determine if the procedure is right for you. 

    If you are deemed to be suitable, you'll be asked to attend a pre-procedure appointment with either your consultant surgeon or a nurse specialist. During this appointment, they'll explain how to prepare for your operation. 

    Distal pancreatectomies are carried out under general anaesthetic, so you may be asked to limit your food and drink intake in the hours leading up to your surgery. 
  • Afterwards icon plus

    After your distal pancreatectomy, you'll be transferred to our recovery ward, where our dedicated team will care for you. 

    The chance of a complication developing after the operation is quite high (30-50%). However, this may be a small and relatively insignificant complication, such as a minor wound infection. Other more serious complications may delay your discharge from hospital. 

    Common complications after pancreatic surgery include wound infections, intra-abdominal infections, delayed stomach emptying and a long-term reduction in pancreatic enzymes, which help to digest food. 

Distal pancreatectomy

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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