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A surgeon utilizes technology to perform a robotic Whipple procedure.

A Guide to the Whipple Procedure for Pancreatic Conditions

Nov 18, 2020

The Whipple procedure is an advanced surgery that impacts several parts of the digestive system, and surgeons use it to treat pancreatic cancer and other disorders within the digestive system. While this procedure is quite complex, learning about it doesn’t have to be. Check out the most common questions we get about the Whipple procedure to gain a better understanding.

What is the Whipple Procedure?

“The Whipple procedure is a major operation where you have to take out the head of the pancreas, part of the intestine, and part of the bile ducts,” explains Dr. George Van Buren, a pancreatic surgeon at the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. “[The surgeon] then has to reconstruct the organs and put the patient back together on the inside.”

Who Is a Candidate for the Whipple Procedure?

One of the major qualifying factors a pancreatic cancer patient must meet to undergo the Whipple procedure is having no metastases of their cancer. This limits the number of patients who can undergo this surgery, as pancreatic cancer is typically found in later stages due to a lack of symptoms. Generally, about 20% of pancreatic cancer patients are eligible.

What are the Advantages of a Robotic-Assisted Surgery?

According to the FDA, the benefits of robotic-assisted surgery include the device's ability to perform the complex tasks of a procedure through smaller incisions. Any robotic-assisted surgery carries numerous benefits for patients, including reduced blood loss, less pain, and the ability to return home sooner. Using this technology to perform a surgery also allows surgeons to see the surgical area in close detail with 3D-magnified images and maximize surgical precision by using the robot’s three operable arms.

What is the Success Rate of the Whipple Procedure?

According to Van Buren, the success rate for the Whipple procedure at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center “is very, very high, and the complication rate and mortality rate is well below the national average.”

Our team at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center performs this surgery on a regular basis and monitors patients closely during their recovery. According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, “data show high volume surgeons at high volume hospitals have higher success rates and fewer complications.”

If you have any questions or think you may be a candidate for the robotic Whipple procedure, schedule an appointment with a St. Luke’s Health gastroenterologist. As one of the top 25 gastroenterology and GI surgery programs in the nation for 2020-21 (U.S. News & World Report), our trusted team at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center provides the most advanced and individualized digestive care available.

Sources:
Harvard Health | The Whipple Procedure
Healthline | How Robotic Surgery is Helping Patients, Doctors
FDA | Computer Assisted Surgical System
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network | Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy)