Potential Surgical Complications
Your doctors will discuss your risks of having surgery when you give your consent to go ahead with the operation.
Not all patients will have the following potential complications:
By far the most important complication following a Whipple’s or other pancreatic surgery is where one of the anastomosis (the joins between either the bowel and the liver and pancreas) do not heal properly, allowing the contents to leak. To minimise this leak the stomach is kept empty by the use of a draining tube. If a leak does occur then you may need a second operation to repair it or the insertion of a drain under x-ray control. Sometimes leaks heal on their own, but this can take time. Leaks from the pancreas are most serious as the pancreas releases digestive enzymes which can break down nearby tissue.
Delayed emptying of the stomach
Sometimes your stomach may take longer to adapt to the changes after surgery and your food may not be able to pass through efficiently. You may need to stick to a liquid diet only for a while. Alternatively, you may need to take your nourishment through a naso-gastric tube (a feeding tube in the nose) until this resolves.
Some patients may produce a milky type of fluid (chyle) into their abdominal drain after surgery. Chyle is lymphatic fluid that builds up in the tummy following trauma due to surgery. This resolves by you reducing the amount of food you eat for a period of time. Your dietitian or surgeon may feel that you should have artificial feeding during this period, such as a feeding tube, to support your nutrition intake.
Any operation carries a risk of bleeding post-operatively. This may occasionally require a further operation to locate and repair the bleeding blood vessel or you may need to be given extra blood.
It is possible to develop a chest infection following an operation, especially if you are a smoker. To minimise your risk, a physiotherapist will visit you after your operation to help you to cough and breathe properly.
Problems with absorption
When you have had part of your pancreas removed, you may notice your stools (motions) have become pale, loose and greasy. You can correct this by taking a pancreatic enzyme capsule, which will help you to digest your food.
Most people are overwhelmed after surgery and this can lead to feelings of confusion and frequent changes of mood. These emotions are part of the process that many people go through in trying to come to terms with their illness. There may be times when you want to be left alone to sort out your thoughts and feelings. If you feel you need help in coping, do talk to your doctor or nurse.
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