SOURCE: OR-Live, Inc.

January 04, 2008 16:39 ET

ORLive Presents: Whipple Procedure for Pancreatic Cancer

Live Webcast: From University of Maryland Medical Center: January 7, 2008 at 9:00 AM EST (14:00 UTC)

BALTIMORE, MD--(Marketwire - January 4, 2008) - On January 7, 2008, step inside the operating room at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore and watch as H. Richard Alexander, M.D., an internationally recognized surgical oncologist and a professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, performs a Whipple procedure on a patient with pancreatic cancer live on

If the pancreatic cancer has not spread beyond the pancreas, surgery is a viable option for patients. The Whipple, also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, is a lengthy and complex surgery that is designed to remove the cancer completely. It typically takes more than six hours to complete and involves removing the head of the pancreas, which is found deep inside the abdomen. In addition, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder and the duodenum are removed. Once this part is finished, reconstruction is then required so that the pancreas, the intestine and the remaining bile duct are connected, allowing the patient to eat and digest normally. This surgery is an example of a Pylorus-Preserving Whipple since the stomach is not removed. Often the Whipple will include the removal of a portion of the stomach.

Before the procedure, all patients are carefully evaluated with diagnostic testing to ensure that they are medically fit for the Whipple and that the cancer is confined to the pancreatic tissues. Surgery is the only treatment with the potential to cure this condition and should be offered to all those who meet these criteria. The complication that is of particular note with the procedure relates to the pancreas. It is an organ that produces very potent digestive juices that are usually secreted into the duodenum. During the Whipple procedure a new connection between the body to the pancreas and small intestine must be created; any leakage of pancreatic juices from this new connection may lead to delays in healing, infection, or bleeding from the adjacent tissues. The frequency of major or serious complications has decreased markedly over the past 15 years and this procedure is now done very routinely at centers with active programs in treating pancreatic cancer.

If the pancreatic cancer has not spread beyond the pancreas, an operation to remove the head of the pancreas is the best treatment option. The operation is a somewhat lengthy and complex procedure that is designed to completely remove the cancer and surrounding tissues that are at risk of harboring cancerous cells. It typically takes about six hours to complete. The tissues removed include the head of the pancreas, duodenum, a portion of the common bile duct, gallbladder, and the regional lymph nodes. After that, reconstruction of the gastrointestinal tract is required and is done so in a fashion that will allow the individual to eat and digest normally. When possible a pylorus-preserving pacreaticoduodenectomy is performed, which preserves the sphincter at the end of the stomach that releases food into the small intestine in a regulated manner. When the cancer appears to be near the pylorus then a portion of the stomach is removed, and this is what is known as the classic Whipple procedure. The tissues that are removed are sent to the pathology department and very carefully analyzed; the information that is obtained from the pathology report provides what is termed the "stage of disease" or in other words an assessment as to how much risk there is of a recurrence. It is on the basis of that risk that other preventative or what is termed "adjuvant" therapies may be recommended. This therapy, if necessary, usually begins between 8 and 12 weeks post-operatively and may include chemotherapy, radiation, or both.

After surgery, there are a number of intravenous lines, drains, catheters, and monitors used for the first 48 to 72 hours to make certain that the patient is convalescing normally. Most individuals are observed in an intermediate care type hospital unit during this time and then are moved to a regular hospital floor thereafter. As one recovers from the procedure the catheters, drains, and monitors are removed. The usual length of hospitalization is between 7 to 10 days; after that an individual should expect to recover at home for another 3 weeks. Activities can usually be increased gradually over this time.

Visit: to learn more and view a program preview. VNR:

Contact Information

  • Contact:

    Alex Fraser
    Director of Marketing
    OR-Live, Inc.
    860-953-2900 x 214
    Email Contact