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  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy is also called Whipple procedure. It is done to remove a tumor (lump) from the pancreas or bile duct. A pancreatic or bile duct tumor forms when cells become cancer. The cancer cells grow and divide without control or order. These cancer cells often make too much tissue and affect other nearby structures in the abdomen (stomach). The pancreas is an organ behind the stomach which helps digest food by making digestive enzymes (chemicals). The pancreas also makes hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, which help to balance blood sugar. The pancreatic duct joins the bile duct as both ducts drain into the duodenum (upper part of small intestine).

  • During the Whipple procedure, the gallbladder, duodenum, bile duct, and head of the pancreas may be removed. Sometimes, the pylorus (end part of the stomach) and lymph nodes may also be taken out. Enough of the pancreas is left to produce digestive juices and insulin. The small intestine will be attached to the stomach and to the remaining bile duct and pancreas. You and your caregiver will decide if this type of procedure for your disease is right for you. With Whipple procedure, the pancreatic or bile duct cancer may be removed, and the symptoms it causes relieved.



  • Keep a current list of your medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him about any medicine allergies, and if you want to quit taking or change your medicine.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • The pancreas is the organ that helps maintain normal blood sugar levels and prevent a condition called diabetes. After treatment for pancreatic cancer, you may need to use medicine to control diabetes. Ask your caregiver for more information about diabetes and how to manage it.
  • If you are having chemotherapy, take your medicine exactly as you are told.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

  • Your caregiver will tell you when the sutures or staples in your abdomen will be removed. Ask your caregiver how to take care of your sutures and staples at home.

Eating well with cancer and cancer treatment:

Good nutrition can:

  • help you feel better during treatment and decrease treatment side effects
  • decrease your risk of infection
  • help you have more energy and feel stronger
  • help you maintain a healthy weight and heal faster
Eat a variety of healthy foods to get the protein, carbohydrates, and other nutrients that your body needs. You may need to change the foods you eat depending on your treatments and side effects. You also may need to eat more calories than usual. Work with a dietitian to plan the best meals and snacks for you. Ask if you should add vitamins to your diet.

Rest when you need to while you heal after surgery.

Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.

Wound care:

  • After the procedure, a thin stent (tube) may be placed in your wound to drain fluid. This drain may be connected to a suction container to collect the fluid. Your bandage may need to be changed more often if the drain is not connected to a container.
  • When you are allowed to bathe or shower, carefully wash the incision with soap and water. Afterwards, put on clean, new bandages. Change your bandage any time it gets wet or dirty. Ask your caregivers for more information about wound care.


  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have dizziness, nausea (upset stomach), or vomiting (throwing up).
  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • You have questions or concerns about your procedure, condition, or care.


  • You have pus or a foul-smelling odor coming from your incision.
  • You have severe abdominal pain that does not go away even after taking pain medicines.
  • You have more jaundice (yellowing of your skin and whites of the eyes) than before.
  • You have trouble seeing, talking, or thinking clearly.
  • You passed out or had a seizure (convulsion).
  • Your face or other parts of your body are getting numb or you cannot move your arms or legs.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Your symptoms come back or become worse.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Pancreaticoduodenectomy (Aftercare Instructions)

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