Pancreatectomy Surgery (Removal of the Pancreas)

Pancreatectomy is the technical name for surgery to remove all or part of the pancreas.  This procedure can be used to treat conditions like pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis. 

Total Pancreatectomy

In a total pancreatectomy, the entire pancreas is removed. Similar to a Whipple procedure, a portion of the stomach, duodenum, gallbladder, and local lymph nodes are also removed. The spleen may be removed as well. Because the entire pancreas is removed, the patient becomes an insulin-dependent diabetic for life. For this reason, the procedure is only used when disease has spread so extensively throughout the pancreas that healthy tissue cannot be preserved.

Total pancreatectomy is sometimes used prophylactically to prevent onset of pancreatic cancer in patients found to have precancerous conditions like IPMN. While the procedure ensures pancreatic cancer will not develop in the future, it also guarantees insulin-dependent diabetes and should be discussed thoroughly and carefully with your physician. 

Total pancreatectomy typically requires 5 to 7 hours.

Distal Pancreatectomy

In a distal pancreatectomy, the tail and body of the pancreas are removed and the head of the pancreas is preserved. Since the spleen is so close to the tail of the pancreas, sometimes the spleen is also removed during the procedure. 

A distal pancreatectomy can sometimes be performed laparoscopically—meaning it is performed using long instruments and a camera inserted through several tiny incisions. Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy patients tend to experience shorter hospital stays, less blood loss, and lower leak complication rates. 

A typical distal pancreatectomy procedure requires about 2 to 4 hours. 

Central Pancreatectomy

In a central pancreatectomy, the neck or body of the pancreas is removed while preserving the healthy head and tail of the pancreas. It is a highly specialized procedure performed at only a handful of centers in the United States, including The Pancreas Center of Columbia University. 

The benefit of a central pancreatectomy is that it leaves patients with working pancreatic heads and tails, which preserves the pancreas’ exocrine and endocrine functions and usually decreasing the chance of developing insulin-dependent diabetes.

A typical central pancreatectomy procedure requires between 2 and 4 hours.

Next Steps

If you or someone you care for is dealing with a pancreatic condition, the Pancreas Center is here for you. Whether you need a diagnosis, treatment, or a second opinion, we have an entire team of experts ready to help. 

Call us at (212) 305-9467 or use our online form to get in touch today.

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