What is the pancreas?
The pancreas is an elongated, tapered gland located behind the stomach. The widest part of the pancreas, called the head, is tucked in the curve of the first segment of the intestines, called the duodenum. The body of the pancreas extends slightly upward before ending in the tail, located near the spleen.
There are two primary functions of the pancreas:
- The exocrine tissue in the pancreas releases digestive enzymes of protease, amylase and lipase, which help breakdown protein, starches and fats so they are more easily absorbed by the intestines; the exocrine tissue also releases bicarbonate, which neutralizes acid in the intestines.
- The endocrine tissue in the pancreas secretes hormones, including insulin, into the blood stream.
Treating Pancreatic Disease
Pancreatic surgery requires highly advanced expertise. That’s why choosing a hospital for pancreatic disease treatment could be the most important decision you’ll ever make. Each year, hundreds of patients with pancreatic
diseases seek treatment with the help of Beaumont experts.
Our pancreatic disease treatment procedures include:
Whipple Treatment for the Pancreas
For the many cancers or suspicious cysts that occur in the head of the pancreas, complete removal usually requires the Whipple procedure, which includes taking out that portion of the pancreas, the duodenum (8-10 inches of small bowel), the lower part
of the bile duct and gallbladder, nearby lymph glands and, at times, a portion of the stomach. This extensive pancreatic surgery is required to ensure complete removal of a tumor since these organs share a common blood supply. Once the
tumor is removed, new connections are made to the remaining pancreas, bile duct and stomach to restore normal digestive function. Contrary to common belief, an individual can live without a pancreas; therefore, complete removal (total pancreatectomy)
can be performed when necessary. In these patients, insulin treatment and oral pancreatic enzyme replacements are used to replace the function of the removed pancreas.
Many studies have shown the benefit of undergoing the Whipple procedure or other complex pancreatic treatments at high volume centers like Beaumont, which has teams dedicated to the care of pancreatic disease.
Minimally invasive laparoscopic pancreatectomy
Advances in minimally invasive surgery have allowed Beaumont surgeons to provide patients with laparoscopic alternatives for pancreatic surgery. For many patients, distal pancreatectomy (removal of the body and tail of the pancreas, with or without the
spleen) can be performed through a series of small incisions with a camera. In some cases, the laparoscopic pancreatic treatment will be combined with standard surgery to use smaller incisions and allow faster recovery. Your surgeon will discuss the
appropriate and safe options for your condition.
Comprehensive care, advanced pancreatic disease treatment
Patients with pancreatic disease require leading edge multidisciplinary treatment, which is why many seek their care at Beaumont. Our pancreatic specialists work together to provide these patients with innovative treatments and advanced surgery.
Our program provides pancreatic disease treatment for patients with:
- Acute pancreatitis
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Pancreatic pseudocyst
- Cystic tumors of the pancreas
- Pancreatic cancer
With hundreds of patients seeking pancreatic disease treatment annually, Beaumont’s program offers advanced diagnostics, including:
- Endoscopic ultrasound
- Flash CT, featuring radiation dose reduction technology
- 3-D reconstructive imaging lab
- Dedicated pathologists with extensive experience in pancreatic disease
Our surgical team has extensive experience in performing the following pancreatic disease treatments:
- Advanced therapeutic endoscopy including biliary stents and pseudocyst drainage
- Minimally invasive laparoscopic pancreatectomy
- Whipple procedures (pancreaticoduodenectomy)
- Ablative therapeutics, including radiofrequency ablation
- Pain management for chronic pancreatitis or cancer
When appropriate, patients are offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials for pancreatic diseases.