Distal pancreatectomy & splenectomy

A distal pancreatectomy is usually performed when a patient has a tumour in the body or tail (‘thin end’) of the pancreas.

This procedure involves having the tail (thin end) and body of your pancreas removed, leaving the head of the pancreas intact. Your surgeon will normally remove your spleen at the same time because it is located next to the tail of the pancreas.

Even though a distal pancreatectomy is less complicated than the Whipple’s procedure, it is still major surgery. The spleen is an important part of your immune system, and if it is removed, you will be on antibiotics for the rest of your life to prevent infections.

Some specialists may opt to perform distal pancreatectomies via a laparoscopic procedure. This is not common, it only happens in a few specialist centres and generally only when the tumour is small. As it is keyhole surgery, recovery time for patients is usually faster than for open surgery.

Distal pancreatectomy BEFORE surgery
Distal pancreatectomy (before surgery) Copyright Pancreatic Cancer Action 2013. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission from Pancreatic Cancer Action
Distal Pancreatectomy AFTER surgery
Distal pancreatectomy (after surgery). Copyright Pancreatic Cancer Action 2013. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission from Pancreatic Cancer Action