Total Pancreatectomy

Despite being a rare procedure, a total pancreatectomy can provide exceptional relief for pancreatic cancer and severe cases of pancreatitis. Our goal is to treat pancreatic conditions with compassionate care, in order to help you achieve an optimal quality of life.

Total pancreatectomy is a major surgical operation. Used mainly to treat extreme cases of chronic pancreatitis or cancer, the surgery removes the entire pancreas, the common bile duct, the spleen, gallbladder, part of the small intestine and affected lymph nodes.

The pancreas supplies metabolic enzymes to the duodenum and intestines, as well as insulin to the bloodstream. It is vital to maintaining a healthy metabolic and digestive wellbeing. Because of this, most total pancreatectomies also require an islet cell transplant.

The islet cell transplant takes insulin-producing islets from a donor pancreas or the patient’s removed pancreas and implants them in the patient who received the total pancreatectomy. Without an islet cell transplant, a patient will require insulin injections for life.

A total pancreatectomy is a major surgical operation performed using a midline incision and general anesthesia. The procedure takes an average of five hours to complete.

Before the procedure, certain imaging techniques are used (CT and MRI scans) to detect the severity of the pancreatic condition.

During your pancreatectomy, your surgeon makes a large vertical incision down the center of your abdomen, exposing your digestive tract and vital organs. Because the pancreas is located behind the stomach, your surgeon will move your colon out of the way to reach the pancreas.

Before removal of the pancreas takes place, your surgeon will have to cut the bile duct and duodenum, because they lead from the pancreas to other organs. After, your surgeon seals and cuts the veins and arteries that are attached to the pancreas.

Your surgeon then removes the pancreas entirely, along with its connected structures (the duodenum, common bile duct and spleen).

Once the pancreas is taken out, reconstruction takes place. The remaining portion of the intestine (jejunum) is brought up and attached to the stomach, pancreas and bile duct to resume normal metabolic function.

As the reconstruction of the pancreas and digestive tract is completed, your surgeon examines the important blood vessels (inferior vena cava) and surrounding tissue to ensure they are not damaged. As this occurs, your surgeons will also inject islets into your portal vein to induce insulin production.

Patients that undergo total pancreatectomy surgery are often placed in intensive care following surgery and are carefully monitored for complications. During your postoperative care, several tubes will be placed in your body to prevent fluid buildup.

After a day in intensive care, patients are often sent to the hospital floor. Depending on health conditions and the recovery process, patients stay in the hospital for up to two weeks 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.