Having a Whipple procedure
The Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy) is a major, complex operation. It has to be done by a specialised pancreatic or hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) surgeon.
Learn more about what happens:
During the procedure
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.
This rearrangement 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 a long operation. It usually lasts 5–8 hours. As your surgeon will explain, this surgery is complex and there is a chance of serious problems, such as major bleeding or leaking from one of the joins between the remaining parts.
Most people stay in hospital for 1–2 weeks after surgery, and full recovery takes at least 8–12 weeks. Your team will encourage you to move around and start gentle exercise as soon as you are ready.
Learn tips on managing dietary issues after a Whipple procedure.
For more on this, see our general section on Surgery.
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Dr Benjamin Loveday, Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary (HPB) Surgeon, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Katherine Allsopp, Palliative Medicine Physician, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Hollie Bevans, Senior Dietitian, Radiotherapy and Oncology, Western Health, VIC; Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Amanda Maxwell, Consumer; Prof Michael Michael, Medical Oncologist, Lower and Upper GI Oncology Service, Co-Chair Neuroendocrine Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and University of Melbourne, VIC; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Meg Rogers, Nurse Consultant Upper GI/NET Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Ady Sipthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.
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