Laparoscopic Whipple Surgery

The Whipple procedure is a type of treatment that is recommended for advanced pancreatic cancer that has spread to the small intestines, gallbladder, and bile ducts.
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What is Whipple Surgery?

Whipple surgery is sometimes referred to by its formal name which is a pancreaticoduodenectomy, and the process involves a complex operation that calls for the removal of the bile duct, a portion of the small intestine, and the head of the pancreas. Whipple Surgery is performed as one kind of treatment for pancreatic disorders, or for disorders of the intestines or bile duct. It is the type of surgery most frequently performed for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, assuming that the cancerous tissue is located near the head of the pancreas. After the necessary sections have been removed, the surgeon would then reconnect those parts of the organs again, so that food can be properly digested. Whipple Surgery is often a life-saving technique performed on people suffering from pancreatic cancer, but it is a very complex operation, fraught with some major risks, so it is undertaken only after thorough consideration.

Alternatives to Whipple Surgery

There are some alternatives to performing Whipple Surgery, and if any of these are used, it would be in response to a specific situation that a patient has. For instance, if cancerous tissue has been identified in the body or tail of the pancreas, surgery may be performed to remove those specific sections, and this type of surgery is known as pancreatectomy. It is sometimes necessary to remove the spleen during this type of surgery.


When it is necessary to remove the entire pancreas, that calls for a total pancreatectomy. When the entire pancreas has been removed, it will still be possible to live a reasonably normal life, but a patient would require insulin and enzyme injections for the rest of their life. In some unusual cases, cancerous tumors affect blood vessels near these organs, and some of these blood vessels must be either removed or reconstructed.

This is another highly complicated kind of surgery which is only performed at a few medical facilities in this country. Patients are screened carefully for this kind of surgery, which must be performed by very experienced and highly specialized robotic surgeons who are well acquainted with this particular type of surgery.

Why Whipple Surgery is Performed

Whipple Surgery is generally performed as a treatment option for individuals who are experiencing some kind of disorder with their bile duct, duodenum, or pancreas. The pancreas itself plays a vital role in your normal body function, working intimately with the ducts and the liver to carry bile to the stomach. The pancreas secretes various enzymes which are necessary for digestion, especially for foods high in protein or fats. It also produces hormones that are essential for the management of your level of blood sugar.

There are a number of conditions that may be resolved through Whipple Surgery includes;

The ultimate aim of performing a Whipple procedure for cancer is to completely remove all cancerous tissue and prevent that tissue from growing larger and from spreading to other parts of the body. Whipple Surgery is the only known procedure that can accomplish a cure for most of the cancerous tumors mentioned, and give a patient a chance at longer life.

Risks of Whipple Surgery

Given the fact that Whipple Surgery is such a complex operation, it is not surprising that there are a fair number of major risks associated with the procedure. Some of these risks become apparent while surgery is actually being performed, and others show up in the immediate aftermath of surgery. It is very possible to experience severe bleeding at the areas where surgery is performed, and it’s also possible for an infection to form at the site of the incision, or on the interior of the abdomen.

It may cause a delayed evacuation of stomach contents, and that could make eating difficult, or it could cause difficulty with keeping food down. In some cases, leakage occurs between the pancreas and the bile duct, and this can lead to unpleasant sensations in the patient. Since the pancreas is partly responsible for managing blood sugar levels by producing insulin, the removal of part of the pancreas or all of it can result in temporary or permanent diabetes for the patient.

Fewer of these complications are encountered when surgery is conducted by highly trained surgeons at facilities where this kind of surgery is frequently performed. That makes it very important for a patient to research the background of an operating surgeon, as well as the facility itself in performing Whipple Surgeries.

How Whipple Surgery is Performed

There are several different approaches to Whipple Surgery, and any of these approaches will only be undertaken after physicians have thoroughly evaluated the patient’s condition, and are confident that the patient is healthy enough to undergo the procedure. It is frequently necessary to conduct a number of medical tests in order to obtain this information, and to confirm that a patient is a good candidate for the procedure.

Different Whipple Surgery Approach​

Open Surgery

The traditional approach to Whipple Surgery is known as open surgery, and this calls for a fairly long incision to be made in the abdomen so that the pancreas can be accessed for surgery. This surgical approach is the one which has been performed most often and therefore is the most studied and researched.

Laparoscopic Surgery

Laparoscopic surgery involves making several very small incisions in the abdomen and then inserting tiny specialized instruments that perform the actual surgery. One of these instruments is a tiny camera that records images of the pancreas and other organs and then transmits them onto a monitor next to the operating table, where it can be viewed by the operating surgeons. This kind of surgery is considered to be minimally invasive, causing the least amount of disruption to the patient’s body, and allowing for quicker recovery time.

Robotic Surgery

Robotic surgery is another kind of minimally invasive approach in which surgical tools used for the process are connected to a robot that is directed by a physician at a console. The big advantage of this kind of surgery is that the robot can maneuver easily around corners and in tight quarters where human hands are too big to accomplish the task at hand.

These approaches which involve minimally invasive surgery provide major benefits to the patient, including reduced loss of blood and much quicker recovery time, but they are generally longer procedures as well. In some cases, laparoscopic surgery or robotic surgery is initiated, only to discover complicating factors during surgery, at which point it is necessary to finish the procedure using open surgery.

Outlook after Whipple Surgery

It will generally be necessary to remain at the hospital for between four and 10 days following your surgical procedure. Any patient’s chances for survival after Whipple Surgery will depend on their specific health status, and whether or not all cancerous tissue was successfully removed.

For virtually all cancers and tumors affecting the pancreas, the Whipple Surgery is the only possible cure that can leave a patient with a relatively normal and long life afterward. Many patients who undergo successful Whipple Surgery join support groups or feel confident in talking with a professional counselor, who can help them alleviate their fears regarding life after the procedure.

Get Consulted Today

Dr. Anthony Pozzessere has performed Whipple Surgery many times in the past and has experienced favorable outcomes for many of his patients. He has an extensive background in laparoscopic surgery, which makes use of tiny incisions and tiny surgical instruments to carry out the procedure.
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