What is a Whipple Procedure?
A Whipple procedure (also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy) is a complex surgical procedure in which the head of your pancreas is removed, along with the first part of your small intestine, gallbladder and bile duct.
Why do I need pancreas surgery?
A Whipple procedure is most commonly used to treat tumours and disorders of the pancreas, bile duct and intestine. It is often used to treat pancreatic cancer if the cancer is confined to the head of the pancreas. The goal of the surgery is to remove the tumour and prevent it from growing or spreading to other organs.
Your doctor will talk to you in detail about whether or not this is a good option for you. Generally, doctors will recommend this procedure to treat:
- Ampullary cancer
- Bile duct cancer
- Neuroendocrine tumours
- Other tumours or disorders involving the pancreas, duodenum or bile duct
- Pancreatic cancer
- Pancreatic cysts
- Pancreatic tumours
- Small bowel cancer
- Trauma to the pancreas or small intestine
What happens in pancreas surgery?
A Whipple procedure may be done in the following ways:
- Open surgery – in which your surgeon makes an incision into your abdomen to access your pancreas.
- Laparoscopic surgery – in which your surgeon makes several small incisions and uses small instruments including a camera which transmits images to a screen in the operating room. This type of surgery is minimally invasive.
Your surgery may take four to 12 hours to complete. The surgery is done using general anaesthesia, which means that you will be asleep during the entire operation.
What is the cost of a Whipple procedure?
A Whipple procedure can be 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 Whipple procedure?
A Whipple procedure is a difficult operation and it is associated with a number of serious risks and complications. It is often lifesaving for people with cancer.
Risks and complications include:
- Adverse reaction to the anaesthetic
- Leaking from where the pancreas, stomach or bile duct are joined to the bowel
Recovery from a Whipple procedure
Each type of pancreas surgery is different, and your surgeon will advise you on what to expect after your surgery. Most people will be placed in a general surgical recovery ward after the procedure. If you have certain medical conditions, you may need to stay in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit for continuous monitoring.
Most patients who have a Whipple procedure stay in hospital for 1 -2 weeks after surgery. It usually takes four to six weeks to return to normal activities.