(Central Pancreatectomy; Distal Pancreatectomy; Total Pancreatectomy)
by Sarah J. Kerr, BA
The pancreas is a long, flat, pear-shaped organ located behind the stomach. It makes digestive enzymes and hormones, including insulin.
This is surgery to remove the pancreas. In this procedure, all or part of the pancreas can be removed. In some cases, other nearby structures may also be removed such as:
Reasons for Procedure
This procedure is done to treat certain health conditions, such as pancreatic cancer or pancreatic necrosis due to pancreatitis.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
The pancreas produces many necessary digestive enzymes and helps regulate blood sugar. When part of the pancreas is removed, long-term complications may result, such as:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
If you have cancer, chemo- or radiation therapy may be done to reduce the size of a tumor before surgery.
Leading up to the procedure, your doctor may do the following:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
You should arrange for a ride to and from the hospital and have someone stay with you the first night.
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep through the surgery.
Description of the Procedure
An incision will be made in the abdomen. The affected part of the pancreas, as well as other affected areas, will be removed. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples.
Tubes may be placed that come out of the abdomen. A tube will drain fluid from the surgery site.
If only a part of the pancreas needs to be removed, your doctor may do the surgery laparoscopically. Small incisions will be made and a camera will be inserted. This will help the doctor see inside the abdomen to remove the affected part of the pancreas.
How Long Will It Take?
The surgery can take 4-8 hours, depending on what part or how much of the pancreas is removed.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. You will have pain after the procedure. Ask your doctor about medication to help manage pain.
Average Hospital Stay
You may need to stay in the hospital from 5 days to 3 weeks. This depends on the extent of your surgery. If you have any problems, you will need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, you will be in a recovery room where your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored. Recovery may also include:
You will be encouraged to be mobile as soon as possible. This start as soon as the first day after your surgery.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
Depending on how much of your pancreas was taken, it may not make adequate amounts of enzymes for your body. If this is the case, your doctor may recommend a special diet, supplements, or other medications.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you have symptoms of diabetes, call your doctor. You may need to have your insulin dose adjusted. Symptoms include:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
National Cancer Institute
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Canadian Cancer Society
Pancreatic Cancer Canada
Management of pancreatic cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated September 15, 2017. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Surgical techniques for pancreas preservation. University of Southern California Center for Pancreatic and Biliary Diseases website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 21, 2017.
Surgery. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network website. Available at: https://www.pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/treatment/surgery. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Surgery for pancreatic cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/treating/surgery.html. Updated May 31, 2016. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.
All rights reserved.