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Whipple Procedure

  • Sarah J. Kerr, BA
Publication Type:


Whipple Procedure

(Pancreaticoduodenectomy; Classic Whipple; PP Whipple; Pylorus-preserving Pancreaticoduodenectomy; Pylorus-preserving Whipple Procedure)


A Whipple procedure is complex surgery to remove part of the pancreas along with the:

  • Gallbladder and common bile duct
  • Top part of the small intestine called the duodenum
  • Portion of the stomach called the pylorus—when the pylorus is not removed, the procedure is known as a pylorus-preserving Whipple procedure
  • Surrounding lymph nodes
The Pancreas.

http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=25772577si55551345.jpgThe PancreasNULLjpgThe PancreasNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\si55551345.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.26NULL2002-10-012553912577_638169Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

This surgery is done to treat cancer of the pancreas, duodenum, or lower part of the bile duct. It may also be done to treat people with chronic pancreatitis.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Long term difficulty with digestion
  • Lasting belly pain
  • Long term need to take pancreatic enzyme supplements
  • Diabetes

Problems that can happen as a result of surgery may include:

  • Leaking from connections made in the intestines
  • Damage to other organs
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Blood clots

Before the procedure, talk to the doctor about ways to manage things that may raise the risk of complications, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Long term health issues such as diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Problems to Look Out For

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, more pain, bleeding, or discharge from the incision
  • Pain that is not controlled with the medicines you were given
  • New or worsening:
    • Diarrhea
    • Weigh loss
    • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Symptoms of diabetes, which may include:
    • Urinating often
    • Feeling very thirsty
    • Feeling hungrier
    • Slow wound healing

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.





  • Halgreen, H., Pedersen, N.T., et al. Symptomatic effect of pancreatic enzyme therapy in patients with chronic pancreatitis. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 1986; 21 (1): 104.
  • Nutrition following pancreatic surgery. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network website. Available at: https://www.pancan.org/section-facing-pancreatic-cancer/learn-about-pan-cancer/diet-and-nutrition/after-a-whipple-procedure.
  • Pancreatic adenocarcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/condition/pancreatic-adenocarcinoma.
  • Singh, V.V. and Toskes, P.P. Medical therapy for chronic pancreatitis pain. Current Gastroenterology Reports, 2003; 5 (2): 110.
  • Surgery for pancreatic cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreaticcancer/detailedguide/pancreatic-cancer-treating-surgery.
  • What you need to know about cancer of the pancreas. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/pancreas.pdf.
  • Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy). Pancreatic Cancer Action Network website. Available at: https://www.pancan.org/section-facing-pancreatic-cancer/learn-about-pan-cancer/treatment/surgery/whipple-procedure-pancreaticoduodenectomy.
  • 6/3/2011 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/management/treatment-for-tobacco-use: Mills, E., Eyawo, O., et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Medicine, 2011; 124 (2): 144-154.


  • Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated:

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.