A pancreatectomy is the surgical removal of all or part of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ about the size of a hand located in the abdomen in the vicinity of the stomach, intestines, and other organs. It lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The pancreas has two critical functions in the body:

  • The production juices that help digest food
  • The production of hormones such as insulin and glucagon that maintain optimal blood sugar levels and help the body use and store energy from food

Blausen 0699 Pancreas Anatomy

Anatomy of Pancreas

By BruceBlaus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Conditions Treated 

A pancreatectomy is used to treat a number of conditions involving the pancreas including:

  • Acinar cell tumors
  • Adenocarcinoma (85% of all cancers in pancrea)
  • Cancer of the ampulla of Vater (ampullary cancer)
  • Cancer of the distal (lower portion) of the bile duct.
  • Cystadenocarcinoma
  • Cystadenoma (mucinous/serous)
  • Duodenal cancer
  • Inflammation
  • Islet cell tumors (neuroendocrine tumors)
  • Lymphoma
  • Necrotising pancreatitis
  • Neoplasms
  • Papillary cystic neoplasms
  • Severe chronic pancreatitis
  • Severe hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia
  • Severe Trauma

Types of Pancreatectomy

The most common surgical procedure involving removal of a portion of the pancreas is called a pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple procedure) in which the surgeon removes cancerous parts of the pancreas, duodenum, common bile duct, and if required, portions of the stomach. A distal pancreatectomy is removal of the body and tail of the pancreas.