What to expect after pancreatic surgery

How serious is pancreatic surgery?

Up to half of patients develop serious complications and 2 to 4 percent do not survive the procedure — one of the highest mortality rates for any operation. One common complication is leakage of fluid from the pancreas after the surgery, often in large amounts that can cause an abscess and lead to infection and sepsis.

What happens when part of your pancreas is removed?

It’s possible to live without a pancreas. But when the entire pancreas is removed, people are left without the cells that make insulin and other hormones that help maintain safe blood sugar levels. These people develop diabetes, which can be hard to manage because they are totally dependent on insulin shots.

Can you live a normal life after Whipple surgery?

Because pancreatic cancer often grows and spreads long before it causes any symptoms, only about 6% of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis. For some pancreatic patients, however, a complex surgery known as the Whipple procedure may extend life and could be a potential cure.

Is having your pancreas removed a big operation?

You have part of your pancreas left behind. So you should not need enzymes or insulin. But like the other types of surgery to cure pancreatic cancer, it involves a major operation and a long anaesthetic.

How long does pancreatic surgery take?

Surgery may take four to 12 hours, depending on which approach is used and the complexity of the operation. Whipple surgery is done using general anesthesia, so you’ll be asleep and unaware during the operation.

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How painful is pancreatic surgery?

It is normal to experience pain after pancreas surgery. While in the hospital, you will be able to manage your pain with intravenous pain medication. Once you are at home, you will manage your pain with oral medications prescribed by your health care team.

Can you fully recover from pancreatitis?

After acute pancreatitis, most people recover completely, especially if the disease is diagnosed and treated early enough. Pancreatitis that doesn’t go away or keeps coming back and damages the pancreas is called chronic pancreatitis.

What foods irritate the pancreas?

Fried or heavily processed foods, like french fries and fast-food hamburgers, are some of the worst offenders. Organ meats, full-fat dairy, potato chips, and mayonnaise also top the list of foods to limit. Cooked or deep-fried foods might trigger a flare-up of pancreatitis.

When should the pancreas be removed?

We remove the entire pancreas if a patient has more than one tumor or if he or she has an underlying disease in the pancreas as a whole even if cancer is in only part of the organ. That’s because there is a very high risk the patient will develop another cancer elsewhere in the pancreas.

How long does it take to recover from Whipple surgery?

Recovery from the Whipple Procedure

This is a complex operation that will require hospitalization for one to two weeks with the first post-surgery night spent in the intensive care unit before being transferred to the surgical floor. Patients usually remain fatigued for about two months after this operation.

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What are the side effects of Whipple surgery?

The Whipple operation requires an experienced team to anticipate and manage the many potential side effects, which may include:

  • temporary leak of pancreatic fluid from the pancreatic connection.
  • infections.
  • bleeding.
  • slow emptying from the stomach after eating.
  • weight loss.
  • change in bowl habits.
  • diabetes.

Is chemo necessary after Whipple surgery?

For long while it has been fairly common practice in the U.S. to give chemoradiation (chemotherapy plus radiation) as adjuvant treatment after the Whipple procedure surgery for pancreatic cancer.

How long can you live after pancreas removal?

Your outlook will depend on the condition you have. One study found that the seven-year survival rate after surgery for people with noncancerous conditions like pancreatitis was 76 percent. But for people with pancreatic cancer, the seven-year survival rate was 31 percent.

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