The pancreas lies in the upper abdomen behind the stomach and next to the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum. It plays an important role in digestion and regulation of sugar levels in the blood. Also, the pancreas excretes digestive enzymes through the pancreatic duct into the dduodenum. Finally, the pancreas secretes hormones into the bloodstream such as insulin and glucagon to regulate blood sugar levels. There are many disorders of the pancreas including pancreatic masses, pancreatic tumors, neuroendocrine tumors, pancreatic cysts, pseudocysts, and ductal abnormalities such as Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms (IPMNs). Many of these disorders require removal of a portion of the pancreas.
Pancreataic resections can be accomplished laparoscopically in order to avoid a large (12-15 inch) abdominal incision. A Laparoscopic pancreatectomy is performed through 4 or 5 small incisions (all < 1 inch). A laparoscope and long thin instruments are used to perform the operation. The laparoscope functions as a camera to visualize and magnify the abdominal contents to monitors outside of the body. A portion of the pancreas is dissected away from surrounding structures, resected, and removed through one of the small incisions.
The advantages of laparoscopic pancreatectomy include a smaller incision, less pain, a shorter hospital stay, a lower chance of future hernia formation, and a faster recovery.
The majority of patients spend 2-4 days in the hospital and their diet is slowly advanced. Patients are out of bed and walking soon after surgery. Most patients return to work in approximately one week depending on the physical requirements of their occupation. Patients return two weeks after surgery for routine follow-up with their surgeon.