3 Considerations Before Having The Whipple Procedure

The Whipple procedure is an extensive gastrointestinal surgery that may be used in certain cases of pancreatic cancer or when other malignancies or damage occurs to the pancreas, small intestine, or bile ducts. There are many factors you may need to take into consideration before having this potentially life-saving procedure.

Do Your Research

If you have the funds and access, it is important to consider a second opinion. Since the Whipple procedure is complex and post-operative recovery has a high incidence of complications, it is important to find surgeons and facilities that can minimize the likelihood of complications. Generally, the more times a specific surgeon or facility has handled the procedure, the lower risk of complications. Of course, this does not imply there are ways to eliminate complications, but with such a complex procedure, you want to place the odds in your favor. Depending on the reason for the Whipple procedure, you should also ask doctors about the risks and benefits of a less invasive surgery. For example, the Whipple procedure can be an option for people with certain types of cancer, such as some pancreatic tumors. A less invasive surgery might be an option, which could preserve other organs, but the likelihood of the tumor returning and spreading are much higher.

Discuss Surgical Approaches

It is possible for the Whipple procedure to be done using various approaches, such as minimally-invasive versus traditional (open). Some surgeons may do multiple approaches depending on the individual patient, while some may rely on a single approach. Although a minimally-invasive approach can seem like the best option, there can be hindrances. For example, your unique anatomy could make a minimally-invasive approach difficult. With minimally-invasive tools, the instruments must work safely in a confined space. If problems occur during the surgery, the surgeon might switch to an open procedure. Although open procedures are generally considered to have a higher risk of infection and blood loss, this must be weighed against risks associated with a lengthier procedure under general anesthesia.

Understand Pre And Post-Operative Treatments

If the Whipple procedure will be done because of malignancy, you may also need to discuss with your oncologist how the procedure will factor into your overall treatment plan. People with cancer may need chemotherapy and radiation treatments before and/or after the Whipple procedure. Due to the intensive nature of the surgical procedure, you might want to discuss how any treatments, before or after, will affect your surgical recovery. Your oncologist will need to take into consideration how chemotherapy could make you more vulnerable to infections after surgery, but they must also weigh this against the risk of any remaining cancer cells spreading. Ideally, if you already have cancer treatments before surgery, you would have some time to recover from treatments before and after surgery before beginning any additional treatments. If this is not an option, prophylactic antibiotics might be used to minimize infection risks.

Although the Whipple procedure is necessary the case of certain malignancies or problems with the gastrointestinal system, the decision cannot be taken lightly. Having knowledge about the options available to you may reduce your risk of complications.

About Me

Preparing for a Stem Cell Transplant

About six months ago, my wonderful father discovered he had an aggressive form of lymphoma. At this time, his doctor informed him he would need to undergo six rounds of chemotherapy. My dad’s physician also told him he would need to have a stem cell transplant immediately after he completed the chemotherapy. To prepare for the stem cell transplant, my father was put on a special diet. His doctor recommended he eat a lot of protein. My dad was also told to drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. On this blog, I hope you will learn smart tips to help you or one of your loved ones prepare for a stem cell transplant. Enjoy!


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