Pancreatectomy: Removal of all or part of the pancreas. Pancreatectomy may be performed to treat pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), localized pancreatic cancer (see Pancreas, cancer of), or carcinoma of the ampulla of Vater (the small chamber formed by the union of the common bile duct and pancreatic duct that opens into the duodenum). Rarely, it is done to treat some endocrine tumors, such as insulinomas (insulin-producing tumors) .
Removal of all or part of the gland depends on the disorder involved and/or on how much of the pancreas is affected. Obstruction of the pancreatic duct may require removal of only the tail of the gland (the narrower’end, nearest the spleen) and the linking of the duct with a small piece of small intestine. Disease of the head of the pancreas (the broader end, situated in the loop of the duodenum) may necessitate removal of both the pancreatic head and duodenal loop (Wnipple’s operation).
Because the pancreas produces insulin and a variety of digestive enzymes, removal of the entire gland results in diabetes mellitus (which requires insulin therapy) and malabsorption (which requires oral supplements of pancreatic enzymes). Such treatment hay also be necessary after a partial pancreatectomy, depending on how much function remains.