A Whipple procedure, also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, is a complex operation to remove the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), the gallbladder, and the bile duct.
The pancreas is a vital organ that lies in the upper abdomen, behind your stomach, and works closely with the liver and the ducts that carry bile. It releases enzymes that help you digest food, especially fats and protein, and secretes hormones that help manage blood sugar levels.
The Whipple procedure is used to treat tumors and other pancreas, intestine, and bile duct disorders. It is the most widely used surgical approach for treating pancreatic cancer that’s confined to the head of the pancreas. The procedure is used to remove cancerous tumors, prevent them from growing and stop their spread to other organs. For many of the cancers that it treats, the Whipple procedure is the only intervention with the potential to provide patients a prolonged survival or cure.
How Does Whipple work?
Whipple procedures can be carried out in several ways:c
- Open surgery: During an open procedure, your surgeon makes an incision in your abdomen to access your pancreas.
- Laparoscopic surgery: During laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon makes several small incisions in your abdomen and inserts special instruments, including a camera that transmits video to a monitor in the operating room. The surgeon uses the monitor to help him guide the surgical tools while performing the procedure.
- Robotic surgery: Robotic surgery is a type of minimally invasive procedure performed using a robotic surgical system controlled by the surgeon through a dedicated console. A surgical robot can operate in tight spaces where human hands may be too large to be effective, allow for greater precision and control, and negate the need for large incisions.
Minimally invasive procedures offer patients several benefits, such as fewer opportunities for blood loss, a smaller chance of infection, and an easier, less painful recovery. However, it also takes longer, which can be hard on the body. In some cases, a procedure can begin as a minimally invasive surgery, but complications or technical difficulties require the surgeon to make an open incision to finish the operation.
Upon completing the Whipple procedure, your surgeon reconnects the remaining organs so that you can digest food normally.
The Whipple Procedure Can Be Used to Treat the Following Conditions:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Pancreatic cysts
- Pancreatic tumors
- Ampullary cancer
- Bile duct cancer
- Neuroendocrine tumors
- Small bowel cancer
- Trauma to the pancreas or small intestine
- Other tumors or disorders involving the pancreas, duodenum, or bile ducts
Risks and Side Effects
The Whipple procedure is a complex and extensive operation that can involve open surgery. It carries risks and can result in side effects. These can appear anytime during, immediately after, or a few days or weeks after the Whipple procedure. On rare occasions, late side effects develop months or years after surgery. However, most side effects will pass on their own or can be treated.
These may include:
- Pain – caused by damage to tissue
- Bleeding at the surgical sites
- Infection of the incision site or inside your abdomen
- Delay in stomach emptying, making it temporarily difficult to swallow food or keep it down
- Leakage from the pancreas or bile duct connection
- Diabetes, temporary or permanent
Why You Should Get a Whipple Procedure at Sheba
Sheba Medical Center, one of the 10 best hospitals in the world according to Newsweek magazine, is a comprehensive medical facility dedicated to providing patients from around the world with cutting-edge, compassionate care.
Research shows that surgeries result in fewer complications when done by highly experienced surgeons at hospitals that frequently perform these procedures. The GI Surgery Unit at Sheba is a high-volume pancreatic surgical facility with excellent outcomes that also possesses extensive experience in minimally invasive surgery.
Following are just a few of the many reasons to choose Sheba for treatment:
- Sheba operates the latest robotic surgical systems, including the Da Vinci Xi.
- As a government institution, we have no hidden costs, and our fees are transparent. Although we offer advanced treatments available only in select medical institutions worldwide, our prices are affordable.
- Sheba treats each patient as a unique individual, personalizing every therapy program.
- Sheba’s 360-degree care approach to every patient, which means that Sheba’s professionals will assist you with arranging medical record reviews, travel, visas, accommodations, and language interpretation as needed.
- Sheba has full accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI), the premier international healthcare accrediting group.
- Sheba has both advanced treatment and laboratory facilities. At Sheba, patients receive every aspect of their treatment in a single facility.
- Our physicians are actively involved in the latest research and application of progressive treatments.
Meet Our Team
Dr. Yuri Goldes, MD
Deputy Director of the General Surgery Department and Director of the Upper GI Surgery Unit
Dr. Goldes leads a team of highly trained specialists who perform laparoscopic Whipple surgery at Sheba Medical Center since 2012 and was the first surgeon in Israel to complete the Whipple procedure using a robotic surgical system. According to Forbes Israel, Dr. Goldes is considered the best gastroesophageal surgeon in the country. Serving as a teacher and tutor in general surgery, Dr. Goldes was recognized as a distinguished tutor and teacher by the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.
Working alongside Dr. Goldes’ highly-trained specialists, a multidisciplinary team of highly qualified surgeons, oncologists, gastroenterologists, radiology specialists, and pathologists collaborate in preparing each patient’s treatment plan.