What is pancreas surgery?
Your pancreas is a gland that sits behind the stomach. It is roughly 15cm long and shaped like a flat pear. The pancreas plays an important part in your digestive system and it is a key controller of blood sugar levels. It also influences the body’s hormonal systems. Pancreatic surgery is usually performed on patients with pancreatitis, pancreas cancer or pancreatic cysts.
Why do I need pancreas surgery?
Every diagnosis is different, and your surgeon will talk to you about why pancreas surgery has been recommended for you. Generally, pancreas surgery is used in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, or a pre-cancerous condition that needs attention. It can also be recommended if you have a condition which is blocking the flow of digestive fluids from the pancreas.
The goals of pancreatic surgery usually include:
- Relieving pain
- Enhancing digestive function
- Preventing further decline of the pancreas
- Removing pancreatic cysts or tumours
What happens in pancreas surgery?
There are several different types of pancreas surgery, and your surgeon will talk to you about which one is most suitable for your condition. Pancreas surgery usually involves the removal of part or all of the pancreas. The most common types of pancreas surgery are:
- Whipple’s procedure (Pancreaticoduodenectomy) – usually used to remove tumours in the head of the pancreas that have not spread to other areas. This procedure involves the removal of parts of the stomach, small intestines, gall bladder, bile duct and surrounding lymph nodes.
- Pylorus-Preserving Pancreaticoduodenectomy (PPPD) – similar to the Whipple’s procedure, whereby stomach function is maintained.
- Distal Pancreatectomy – involves removing the body and/or tail of the pancreas and sometimes the spleen.
- Total Pancreatectomy – involves removing the whole pancreas, small intestines, gall bladder, part of the bile duct, and sometimes a part of the stomach.
Pancreas surgery is carried out using either open surgery or keyhole (laparoscopic) assistance. Your surgeon will talk to you about which procedure is best for you.
What is the cost of pancreas surgery?
Pancreas surgery is performed in both public and private hospitals. If you choose to have your procedure in a private hospital, a portion of the cost may be covered by your private health insurance. It’s a good idea to discuss this with your insurance provider.
Please contact the Sydney GI Surgery team to discuss your needs and for an accurate assessment of the cost involved.
What are the risks of a pancreas surgery?
A number of risks and potential complications are involved with pancreatic surgery. These include:
- Adverse reaction to the anaesthetic
- Leaking from where the pancreas, stomach or bile duct are joined to the bowel
- DVT or pulmonary embolism
- Medical complications
Recovery from pancreas surgery
Each type of pancreas surgery is different and your surgeon will advise you on what to expect after surgery. Most patients who have a Whipple’s procedure stay in hospital for 1 -2 weeks after surgery. Full recovery usually takes 4 – 6 weeks.
While you are in hospital you will probably have a drip to replace your body’s fluids. Initially you won’t be able to eat or drink, and then you will be given a liquid diet before slowly returning to normal food. You may also need to take enzyme supplements and insulin replacements (total pancreatectomy) to help you digest fat and protein.