Pancreas is an organ located in the abdomen which aids in the regulation of blood sugar level and digestion process.  It is a small and spongy organ located near the stomach and other abdominal organs. Pancreas has both exocrine and endocrine functions. These include:

  • Production and release of digestive enzymes that aids in digestion process.
  • Production and release of hormones such as insulin and glucagon that help to regulate the blood glucose level and support the body to use and store energy derived from food.

A pancreatectomy surgery refers to the removal of the pancreas. A pancreatectomy surgery can be described as entire removal of the organ along with other internal organs such as the spleen, gallbladder, common bile duct, and portions of the small intestine and stomach or can be distal pancreatectomy where in which only parts of the organ are removed from the abdomen.

Pancreatectomy is required when the pancreas is affected with following medical conditions such as:

  • cancer of the pancreas
  • Lesions that can lead to cancer in the pancreas
  • Severe trauma and presence of cysts in the organ

Pancreatectomy is classified into following types:

  1. Open pancreatectomy: In open pancreatectomy, a large cut is made in the abdomen to remove the pancreas.
  2. Laparoscopic pancreatectomy: In laparoscopic pancreatectomy, several small incisins are made and the internal organs are viewed through a laparoscope and surgery is performed to remove parts or entire organ from the abdomen.
  3. Partial pancreatectomy: When a part of the pancreas is removed then the surgery is termed as partial pancreatectomy. This is further classified as :
  • Whipple procedure: only the head of the pancreas is removed with portions of the duodenum, stomach and the gallbladder.
  • Middle or Central pancreatectomy: This surgery removes the neck of the pancreas.
  • Distal pancreatectomy: In distal pancreatectomy only the body and tail of the pancreas is removed.

Before conducting the pancreatectomy surgery, the fluids in the abdomen are drained out by inserting a tube to prevent nausea and vomiting.

Diagnosis and aftercare

Various tests are conducted before the surgery. They include:

  • Ultrasonography
  • CT scan
  • X ray
  • ERCP
  • Angiography

Patients having pancreatic disorders are usually malnourished. In such cases, after the surgery proper nutritional support is provided by tube feeding. Patients having cancer have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy after the surgery for complete recovery. After the surgery patients are required to perform follow up tests to evaluate recovery.

In total pancreatectomy, where the whole pancreas is removed patients will suffer pancreatic insufficiency where no digestive enzymes and insulin hormones are released in the body for proper functioning of the system. In such cases, patients are treated with pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy, where digestive enzyme and insulin injections are provided. These supplements and injections are to be taken lifelong for proper functioning of the body. After pancreatectomy, patients have to take care not to involve in heavy tasks for at least two months.