The Whipple procedure is most often used to treat pancreatic cancer. Surgeons may also use this procedure to treat some benign pancreatic tumors, especially if the tumor is causing symptoms or is at risk of becoming cancerous.
The Whipple procedure, also called a pancreaticoduodenectomy, is an extensive surgery that’s most often performed to treat pancreatic cancer.
The Whipple procedure was originally developed by Dr. Allen Whipple in the
Surgeons sometimes use the Whipple procedure to treat benign tumors (noncancerous) growths. A doctor may recommend the Whipple procedure if your tumor is causing symptoms or has a high risk of becoming cancerous.
Despite having a high risk of complications, the Whipple procedure can be lifesaving.
In this article, we look at when doctors may recommend the Whipple procedure for benign pancreatic tumors.
The Whipple procedure is a complex surgery that involves removing:
- the head of your pancreas
- a part of your small intestines called the duodenum
- your common bile duct
- your gallbladder
- sometimes part of your stomach
The Whipple procedure has become a common surgical technique for treating benign and cancerous tumors arising in your:
- bile ducts
- duodenum, the first part of your small intestines
A doctor may recommend the Whipple procedure if your tumor has a high risk of becoming cancerous. The
The following are some types of benign tumors that may be treated with the Whipple procedure.
Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs)
Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs) are cysts that grow within your pancreatic ducts. These cysts have the potential to become cancerous. Surgery is usually recommended if your IPMN has cellular features that suggest it may quickly turn into cancer.
Serous cystic neoplasms
Large serous cystic neoplasms or those that grow rapidly may require the
Mucinous cystic neoplasms (MCNs)
Mucinous cystic neoplasms (MCNs) are rare tumors that usually occur in
According to a 2020 study, partial pancreas removal is the most common type of surgery to treat people with MCNs.
You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points in this article is fairly straightforward. Although we usually avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.
Solid pseudopapillary neoplasms (SPN)s
Solid pseudopapillary neoplasms are rare tumors that usually occur in young women. They have a low chance of becoming cancerous. Distal pancreatectomy is the
The Whipple procedure is performed under general anesthesia. You’ll receive the anesthetic through an intravenous (IV) line.
The details of the surgery can differ depending on the type of tumor you have and where it’s located. But it will generally involve the following steps:
- The surgeon will make an incision through the midline of your abdomen. Sometimes, the surgery is performed laparoscopically through several small cuts.
- The surgeon will assess the extent of the disease to confirm that it’s surgically treatable.
- They’ll then remove the head of your pancreas, part of your common bile duct, gallbladder, upper part of your small intestines, and possibly part of your stomach and lymph nodes.
- They’ll then connect the remaining part of your pancreas and digestive tract. Your pancreas and common bile duct will be connected to the middle section of your small intestines called the jejunum.
- The incisions will then be sealed with stitches and covered with a dressing.
You’ll likely need to stay in the hospital for 1–2 weeks after your procedure. It may take 2 months or longer to make a full recovery.
Benign pancreatic tumors that don’t cause symptoms and have a low risk of becoming cancerous may not require active treatment. A doctor may recommend regular monitoring of these tumors with imaging instead of surgical removal.
Along with the Whipple procedure, surgeons use a variety of other surgeries to treat benign tumors. The best type of surgery usually depends on where the tumor is located.
- Total pancreatectomy: A total pancreatectomy involves removing your entire pancreas. Other nearby organs may be removed, including:
- part of your small intestines
- common bile duct
- lymph nodes
- Central pancreatectomy: A central pancreatectomy involves removing the neck or body of your pancreas while preserving the head and tail.
- Distal pancreatectomy: A distal pancreatectomy involves removing the tail of your pancreas and sometimes part of the body of your pancreas as well. In some instances, this may be combined with removal of your spleen.
The Whipple procedure is an extensive surgery that’s most often used to treat pancreatic cancer. Surgeons also use this procedure to treat some benign pancreatic tumors if they’re causing symptoms or have a high risk of turning into cancer.
Although it’s an extensive surgery, the Whipple procedure can be lifesaving for people who need it. A doctor can help you decide if the Whipple procedure or another type of pancreatic surgery may be beneficial for you.