Distal Pancreatectomy

At Providence, we believe in compassion during times of need. This is why we offer comprehensive surgeries like distal pancreatectomy. The procedure is designed to treat pain and symptoms of serious pancreatic illness with efficiency and care.

Distal pancreatectomy is a surgical procedure wherein the distal portion of the pancreas (the body and tail) is removed. The procedure is mainly used to treat pancreatic cancer but may also be used to remove benign tumors and cysts and treat pancreatitis. 

Depending on the severity of your condition, a distal pancreatectomy may also include removal of the spleen and surrounding lymph nodes. 

The pancreas supplies metabolic enzymes to the duodenum and intestines, as well as insulin to the bloodstream. It is vital to maintaining metabolic and digestive wellbeing.

Though a minimally invasive approach to distal pancreatectomy is available, it is often performed as an open surgery. This is to reduce the risk of complication, as surgeons will have better visibility and control in an open surgery.

Distal pancreatectomy is a major surgical operation performed under general anesthesia. It is performed either open, with a midline incision, or laparoscopically using small keyhole incisions and laparoscopic tools. The procedure takes an average of two to five hours to complete. 

Before the procedure, certain imaging techniques are used (CT and MRI scans) to pinpoint the portion of the pancreas that will be removed. 

During the procedure, your surgeon will make either a large vertical incision down the center of your abdomen, or small incisions to insert laparoscopic tools into your body. Your surgeon will move your colon and digestive tract out of the way to reach the pancreas.

Your surgeon will then locate the pancreas and remove the distal portion of it. Your operating team will make sure to spare as much healthy pancreatic tissue as possible. 

Once part of your pancreas is removed, your surgeon examines the important blood vessels (inferior vena cava) and surrounding tissue to ensure they are not damaged.  If necessary, your surgical team also makes sure that cancer has not spread to adjacent organs. 

Patients that undergo distal pancreatectomy are often placed in intensive care following surgery and are carefully monitored for complications. Depending on the recovery process, patients stay in the hospital for about a week after surgery. 

Because the pancreas serves a major metabolic purpose, removing portions of it through pancreatectomy may lead to complications. These include postoperative pain, bleeding, infection and blood clots, as well as bile leakage and digestive issues. A distal pancreatectomy may also require patients to take insulin after surgery. 

At Providence, our surgeons, nurses, and caregivers work to ensure your surgery is performed in a comfortable and relaxing environment to avoid complications.