Whipple procedure

Pancreaticoduodenectomy, or surgery for pancreatic cancer

Surgery to remove the head of the pancreas, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder, the duodenum and part of the stomach

About

An effective procedure to remove pancreatic or bile duct cancer. The remaining pancreas, bile duct and stomach are joined to another part of the small bowel, which allows fluid from the pancreas, bile from the liver and food from the stomach to pass into the intestine, where food is digested normally.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    The surgeon will make a large incision across your abdomen below the right side of your rib cage. During the procedure, the head of your pancreas, a part of your bile duct, gallbladder and duodenum, and usually a part of your stomach also, will be removed. The aim is to remove all visible tumours to increase your life expectancy. The remaining structures are then rejoined to your intestine (the jejunum), which will now allow pancreatic juice, bile and food to flow back into your stomach to digest normally. Tubes will be put into your abdomen to drain excess fluid, and your abdomen will be closed with metal clips, to be removed about 10 days later.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Your consultant will explain the procedure and answer any questions you have. Like all procedures, there may be risks, which will also be explained to you. Usually you'll be asked to attend a pre-admission clinic for some routine investigations such as blood pressure and an ECG (echocardiogram or heart trace). You'll also be asked what medications you're on, as you may need to stop taking these prior to surgery. The anaesthetist may also see you to discuss how they will prepare you for surgery and the options for pain relief afterwards. As with most major operations, food or drink are not allowed for some hours before you go to the operating theatre.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    You will be taken into the recovery room in the operating department. Here the anaesthetist and nurses will look after you until you awaken. Once the surgeon and anaesthetist are happy with your condition you will be transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) where you will stay for around 48 hours, for close monitoring. You will then be transferred back to your unit and your hospital stay would be around seven to 10 days. Before you go home, we will discuss diet and pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy with you. It can take 3‒6 months before you feel completely fit again. Rest as much as possible, gradually increasing your level of activity.

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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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