Having a Whipple procedure
The Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy) is a major operation that is done by a specialised pancreatic or hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) surgeon.
Learn more about what happens:
The surgeon removes the part of the pancreas with the cancer (usually the head); the first part of the small bowel (duodenum); part of the stomach; the gall bladder; and part of the common bile duct.
Then the surgeon reconnects the remaining part of the pancreas, common bile duct and stomach (or duodenum) to different sections of the small bowel to keep the digestive tract working (see below). This allows food, pancreatic juices and bile to continue to flow into the small bowel for the next stage of digestion. Many people need to change their diet after a Whipple procedure.
A Whipple procedure is extensive surgery and usually lasts 5–8 hours. As your surgeon will explain, there is a small chance of serious complications, such as major bleeding or leaking from one of the joins between the removed parts. Most people stay in hospital for 1–2 weeks after surgery, and full recovery takes at least 8–12 weeks.
Learn tips on managing dietary issues after a Whipple procedure.
Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department, Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Marion Bamblett, Nurse Unit Manager, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer and Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lynda Dunstone, Consumer; Kate Graham, Accredited Practising Dietitian – Upper GI Dietitian, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Gina Hesselberg, Radiation Oncologist, St George Hospital Cancer Centre, NSW; Dr Marni Nenke, Endocrinologist and Mary Overton Early Career Research Fellow, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian – Upper GI, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Gail Smith, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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