Whipple surgical procedure for pancreatic cancer


Columbia University College Of Physicians and Surgeons


Allen O. Whipple, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons


Starting in the 19th century, attempts to treat pancreatic cancer with surgery were confined to removing part of the pancreas while leaving surrounding organs intact. In 1935, Whipple and colleagues published a report on a more extensive procedure, known as pancreaticoduodenectomy, in three patients with pancreatic cancer. Whipple’s two-stage procedure involves removing the head, or widest part, of the pancreas, the duodenum, and a portion of the stomach as well as the gallbladder and part of the common bile duct. The remaining stomach, bile duct, and pancreas are reconnected to the digestive tract. Today, most surgeons use a variation of the procedure that leaves the pylorus (the opening of the stomach into the duodenum) intact. In 1945, Whipple gave a presentation at the New York Academy of Medicine describing modifications that allowed him to transform the procedure into a one-stage operation. The Whipple procedure is still the most common operation to treat patients with pancreatic cancer.