Whipple Procedure

What is Whipple procedure?

Whipple procedure, also called pancreaticoduodenectomy, is a surgical procedure to treat pancreatic cancer or bile duct cancer. Its main objective is to remove tumours that are within or around the head of the pancreas.

During a Whipple procedure, the surgeon will remove:

  • The head of the pancreas
  • The duodenum, which is a part of the small intestine
  • A portion of the bile duct
  • The gall bladder

In some cases, the surgeon will also remove:

  • The body of the pancreas
  • A portion of the stomach

After removing these affected internal organs, the surgeon will connect the remaining intestine, bile duct and pancreas.

This procedure is named after Dr Allen Whipple, the first American surgeon to perform the operation in 1935.

Whipple procedure

Why do you need a Whipple procedure?

Removing a tumour in the pancreas via a Whipple procedure is the best chance for long-term management of pancreatic cancer.

This procedure is suitable only if the tumour is confined to the head of the pancreas. As the risks of Whipple procedures are high, your surgeon will likely order intensive tests to determine your eligibility before going ahead with the surgery.

Who should not undergo Whipple procedure?

A Whipple operation is not suitable if the tumour has spread to the:

  • Abdominal cavity
  • Body or tail of the pancreas
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Major blood vessels

What are the risks and complications of a Whipple procedure?

The Whipple procedure is a highly complex and risky surgery. Death rates vary between 1 – 15% according to the experience of the surgeons.

Patients who undergo a successful Whipple procedures have up to a 25% chance of surviving for 5 years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Without a Whipple procedure, their 5-year survival rate is only 6%.

Possible complications of a Whipple procedure include:

  • Bleeding
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive problems
  • Infections
  • Pancreatic leak
  • Weight loss

Why choose Mount Elizabeth Hospitals?

At Mount Elizabeth Hospitals in Singapore, our doctors are experienced in helping patients manage pancreatic cancer. If you are a suitable candidate for Whipple procedure, our skilled surgeons, with support from a multidisciplinary team, will advise you on how to prepare for the surgery to boost the chances of a remission.

Our general surgeons and medical oncologists

Our general surgeons and cancer specialists at Mount Elizabeth Hospitals who specialise in performing the complex Whipple procedure will work closely with you on your rehabilitation and post-operation recovery period to manage pancreatic cancer. Supported by a multidisciplinary team, they will strive to reduce your pain and discomfort during your rehabilitation journey.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

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