Pancreas Treatments

Distal Pancreatectomy

Pancreatectomy is removal of the entire pancreas. However, if a tumor is located in the body or the tail of the pancreas, then these portions can be removed, leaving the head of the pancreas intact. This is called a distal pancreatectomy. After the body and tail are removed, the opening left on the head is closed with sutures to prevent the leakage of pancreatic enzymes. There are a number of ways this procedure is performed at Emory, depending on the patient’s particular circumstances and presentation:

•    Open distal pancreatectomy is performed using traditional open surgical techniques. In this procedure, the spleen is generally also removed because the two organs are connected by the splenic artery and its branches, making it difficult to separate them.

•    Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy uses a number of smaller incisions to insert tiny instruments and cameras to perform the operation. This method may be suitable for islet cell and cystic tumors occurring in the body or tail of the pancreas, as well as some pseudocysts and certain cases of pancreatitis. The hospital stay and recovery time for a laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy are considerably shorter than those for the open procedure. Groundbreaking research of this procedure was performed at Emory.

•    Robotic distal pancreatectomy is similar to the laparoscopic approach, except that the instruments are not directly controlled by the surgeon, but instead by a special machine that the surgeon controls. The robotic method provides a level of dexterity not possible with traditional laparoscopic instruments and may increase the chances of saving the patient’s spleen.

•    In a spleen-preserving distal pancreatectomy, only the pancreas is removed, leaving the spleen intact. This procedure may be appropriate for islet cell and cystic tumors when the location of the tumor is such that the splenic artery can be spared. A robotic approach may be best for this procedure.

Pancreas Conditions