How you prepare

Your surgeon will review several factors to evaluate which approach to your surgery is best in your situation. He or she will also assess your condition and ensure that you are healthy enough for a complex operation. You may require some additional medical tests and optimization of some of your health conditions before proceeding to surgery.

A Whipple procedure may be done in various ways:

  • Open surgery. During an open procedure, your surgeon makes an incision in your abdomen in order to access your pancreas. This is the most common approach and the most studied.
  • Laparoscopic surgery. During laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon makes several smaller incisions in your abdomen and inserts special instruments, including a camera that transmits video to a monitor in the operating room. The surgeon watches the monitor to guide the surgical tools in performing the Whipple procedure. Laparoscopic surgery is a type of minimally invasive surgery.
  • Robotic surgery. Robotic surgery is a type of minimally invasive surgery in which the surgical tools are attached to a mechanical device (robot). The surgeon sits at a console nearby and uses hand controls to direct the robot. A surgical robot can use tools in tight spaces and around corners, where human hands may be too large to be effective.

Minimally invasive surgery offers some benefits, such as lower blood loss and a quicker recovery in those without complications. But it also takes longer, which can be hard on the body. Sometimes a procedure may begin with minimally invasive surgery, but complications or technical difficulty require the surgeon to make an open incision to finish the operation.

A Mayo Clinic surgeon talks with a patient about the Whipple procedure.

Before your Whipple operation, your surgeon will explain to you what to expect before, during and after surgery, including potential risks. Your treatment team will talk with you and your family about how your surgery will affect your quality of life. Sometimes the Whipple procedure or other pancreas operations being performed for cancer is preceded or followed by chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both. Talk with your doctor about concerns you may have about your surgery and various other treatment options either before or after your operation.

Before being admitted to the hospital, talk to your family or friends about your hospital stay and discuss any help you may need from them when you return home. You will need someone's help for the first couple of weeks after discharge from the hospital. Your doctor and treatment team may give you instructions to follow during your recovery when you return home.

Food and medications

Talk to your doctor about:

  • When you can take your regular medications and whether you can take them either the night before or the morning of surgery
  • When you need to stop eating or drinking the night before the surgery
  • Allergies or reactions you have had to medications
  • Any history of difficulty or severe nausea with anesthesia
May 24, 2017
References
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