Whipple Surgery for Cancer of the Pancreas

Emory surgeons are leading the way towards perfecting the Whipple procedure. This major surgical operation is performed to treat cancers of the head of the pancreas, the distal bile duct, or the duodenum, and also to treat pancreatitis.

The surgery is performed in two stages. The first stage is the removal of the gall bladder, the common bile duct, the duodenum and the head of the pancreas. The second stage is the reconstruction, which reestablishes the continuity of the gastrointestinal tract.

A study of the Whipple procedure in the The New England Journal of Medicine found operative mortality rates to be four times higher at low-volume hospitals (16%) than at high-volume hospitals (3.8%). In 2010, surgeons at Emory Healthcare performed 119 Whipple procedures.

Emory’s expertise and high volume directly translates into a safer procedure and longer survival. We have developed a clinical pathway to ensure that patients receive best practice care from the moment they enter the hospital. When circumstances allow, our surgeons operate through a relatively small, upper mid-line incision, preserve a large portion of the stomach using the Pylorus-preserving technique, and return patients to home seven to eight days after surgery.

Patient Advantages

  • Emory performs a large number of Whipple procedures every year.
  • For patients with pancreatic cancer, this procedure is the only option for a cure.
  • Emory surgeons use a very small incision: one-quarter the size of the typical incision.
  • Emory has developed a clinical pathway to ensure that post-operative patients are cared for to best standards. Most patients leave the hospital seven to eight days after surgery.

Why Emory?

According to a published data, mortality rates from Whipple surgery are four times lower at hospitals performing a high volume of the procedure. Emory’s expertise and high volume directly translates to a safer procedure and longer survival. A clinical pathway ensures that patients receive best practice care from the moment they enter the hospital.

General and Gastrointestional Surgery

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The Physician

Juan Sarmiento, MD

Learn more about Juan Sarmiento, MD