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Laparoscopic (Keyhole) Pancreatic Surgery

Laparoscopic surgery is a more minimally invasive approach which involves the use of a lighted viewing tube called a laparoscope, introduced through a small incisions (keyholes) on your abdomen and can provide a well-illuminated and magnified view of the structures within. A miniature camera present inside the tube displays images on a high definition screens which guide your surgeon to perform operations. Special long thin instruments are inserted though other 5mm keyholes to act as the hands of the surgeon.

Laparoscopic surgery may be used to treat some diseases of the pancreas. The pancreas is gland deep in the abdomen that releases hormones (including insulin) into the blood stream and digestive enzymes into the intestine via the pancreatic duct.

Pancreatic disorders include inflammation (pancreatitis) or the formation of pancreatic cysts or pancreatic cancer.

Traditional pancreatic surgery is performed through a long incision, and is often associated with a long hospital stay and recovery. Laparoscopic surgery allows certain procedures to be performed through smaller incisions with less pain which shortens hospital stay, the risk of some complications and a quicker recovery.

Laparoscopic pancreatic surgery is often performed for tumours or cysts of the left side of the pancreas (distal pancreatectomy- see section on pancreatic surgery)

During the procedure, your doctor will identify the diseased areas of the pancreas or spread to the surrounding regions and perform a high definition ultrasound through one of the keyholes. The part of the pancreas containing the cyst or tumour can be removed.   Sometimes one of the incisions may be extended so that your doctor can insert a hand into the operative site to aid surgery and remove the specimen.

You are encouraged to get out of bed the day following surgery although your soreness may be present. The length of hospital stay is reduced compared to traditional open surgery. You should be able to get back to your regular activities in a week or two.

Potential risks of laparoscopic pancreatic surgery are like open surgery and include bleeding, infection, damage to surrounding organs and leakage of pancreatic fluid.

A laparoscopic approach may also not be advisable in the presence of dense scar tissue from previous surgery, obesity causing difficulty with visualization, large tumours or bleeding problems.  Your doctor will evaluate you thoroughly to see if this is an ideal procedure for your situation.

Complex pancreatic surgery including the Whipple procedure are performed by a traditional (open) approach in nearly all Australian centres.