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How Long Does It Take to Recover From a Pancreas Surgery?

What is pancreas?

Pancreas SurgeryAlthough patients can leave the hospital after a few days or weeks, a full recovery from pancreas surgery can take two months or longer.

The pancreas is a six to eight inches long organ situated in the abdomen, behind the stomach. The two main functions of the pancreas are regulating the blood sugar in the body and helping in the digestion of food. If the pancreas does not produce enough digestive enzymes, it can cause weight loss and diarrhea. Abnormal functioning of pancreas affects the insulin production that can increase the risk of diabetes, due to a rise in blood glucose levels. 

What are the reasons for laparoscopic pancreatectomy?

Laparoscopic pancreatectomy can be used in the treatment of a number of different conditions which include:

  • Tumors: Aggressive and nonaggressive tumors such as insulinoma, adenocarcinoma, and cystic tumors. 
  • Severe pancreatitis: For the long-term inflammation of the pancreas, surgery may be necessary. 

What is laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy?

Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy is the removal of the left part of the pancreas. The procedure is carried out through small incisions in the abdomen, a fine telescope is used to see inside the body (also known as 'keyhole surgery').

  • Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy is usually done under general anesthesia.
  • The surgeon generally makes about four or five small incisions in the abdomen.
  • A port (nozzle) is inserted into one of the incisions, and carbon dioxide gas is passed through it to inflate the abdomen.
  • This process allows the surgeon to see inside the abdomen more easily.
  • A laparoscope is inserted through another port. The laparoscope looks like a telescope with a light and camera on the end so the surgeon can see inside the abdomen.
  • Surgical instruments are placed in the other small openings and used to remove the portion of the pancreas which contains the disease or tumors.
  • This operation can require many hours to complete because of its complexity.
  • The pancreas is cut out with surgical staplers.
  • The pancreas specimen then is removed from the abdomen by enlarging one of the small incisions.
  • After all, this has been accomplished, the carbon dioxide is released out of the abdomen through the slits, and then these sites are closed with sutures or staples or covered with glue-like bandage and steri-strips.

What are the risks of laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy?

The primary risks of laparoscopic pancreatectomy include:

  • Infection of the skin at the site of operation
  • Leakage of pancreatic juice at the surgical site
  • Collection of pus inside the abdomen (intra-abdominal abscess)
  • The intestines slow down/stop working for several days (Postoperative ileus)
  • Small bowel obstruction due to blockage
  • Anesthesia risks like headache, dizziness.
  • Bleeding
  • Peritonitis (inflammation of abdomen)


Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas.
See Answer

How long does it take to recover from a pancreas surgery?

Although patients can leave the hospital after a few days or weeks, a full recovery from pancreas surgery can take two months or longer. During the first two months, the patient requires frequent hospital visits to review pathology and surgical reports. Incisions will be examined and staples and tubes will be removed. The doctor will also talk to the patient about diet, bowel functions, and pain control to ensure recovery.

If a patient is having issues with diet, they may be referred to a clinical nutritionist to help with individual needs. After the first two months of very regular postoperative evaluations, the frequency of follow-up evaluations will be reduced to every three to six months. Depending on the type of resection and the resulting pathology, the patient may undergo regular imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography to check for recurrence of cancer.

Patients may also need to undergo regular blood tests to ensure important indicators like tumor markers and liver function tests remain within normal ranges. Most patients who undergo surgery for pancreatic cancer will also require a course of chemotherapy after their operation. Chemotherapy does not normally start until six to eight weeks after surgery.


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