Pancreaticoduodenectomy – what a mouthful! This long word is the technical name for one of the most common pancreas surgery procedures. Also known as the Whipple procedure, this surgery involves removing a diseased section of the pancreas. But what even is the pancreas? Why do we need it? And what should you expect if you need this surgery?
Many people would likely have difficulty pointing up the location of the pancreas, let alone naming what it does. The pancreas can be found in the abdomen, just behind the stomach. It is a small organ, not more than a few inches long, but one of the most essential organs for daily life. The pancreas is responsible for the creation of specific chemicals that the body uses for digestion. These chemicals, also known as enzymes, are used to break down the food that we eat. without these enzymes, we would be unable to process the fat, proteins, and carbs within our food into energy.
At the same time, the pancreas also responsible for creating the two hormones that monitor and regulate blood sugar- insulin and glucagon. In cases where the pancreas is unable to produce the hormones and enzymes it should, serious and life-threatening side effects can develop.
When functioning properly, the pancreas is an essential organ for regulating energy levels and providing the body with the nutrients it requires. However, in some cases, the pancreas can pose a potential threat to the rest of the body. For example, in the case of pancreatitis, those enzymes used to digest food begin the process of digestion on the pancreas itself.
Other times, the pancreas can develop cancer. This can be a serious risk, as cancer can spread to other parts of the body. This makes the pancreas a risk to the other organs within the body.
During the procedure for pancreas surgery, you will be anaesthetized and the surgeons will do what they do best. Depending on your specific needs, they may remove certain sections of the pancreas and even surrounding tissue. Usually, the general needs can be identified long before the surgery starts. Some decisions need to be made while the surgery is happening. That is why you want to have the best surgeons you can find working with you!
Once the surgery has been completed, a short stay is to be expected. This gives us an excellent opportunity to closely monitor your recovery, vital signs, and medication use to ensure you are healing properly. Your stay will likely not be more than a few days, but full recovery from pancreas surgery can take up to a few months. While you recover, there are a few side effects and changes you can expect. The first and most common is operation site pain or discomfort. Digestive problems have also been noted. As the pancreas plays such a large part in digestion, it is only to be expected that the body will have to adjust to a new way of doing things. The most noteworthy aspect of this is the fact that you will not be able to eat for a few days after the surgery.
Any time there is a procedure near the abdomen, there is a potential for essential skills such as walking and sitting up to be impaired. It will be important to, in accordance with your specific instructions from your surgeon, stay active to the extent possible.
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