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Robotic Whipple for Pancreatic Cancer

We know any cancer diagnosis can be life-threatening, but the odds increase with pancreatic cancer. With a cure rate of less than ten percent, treatment must be multi-disciplinary and timely. With newly refined protocols and techniques, our cancer specialists are seeing better patient outcomes using a less invasive surgical approach, known as a "robotic whipple" (p)ancreaticoduodenectomy. Not only is this approach less invasive and requires smaller incisions, it also ensures faster recovery time for our patients and overall less pain during and after surgery. 

What is a Whipple Procedure?

The Whipple procedure, officially known as pancreaticoduodenectomy is the standard operation for treating pancreatic cancer. It is used to treat tumors located in the head of the pancreas where most pancreatic cancer tumors occur. The procedure gets its name from Allen Oldfather Whipple; he was a former chairman of the Department of Surgery at Columbia University and is credited with pioneering the procedure. 

Types of Procedures:

  • Conventional Whipple 
    The conventional process requires removal of the head of the pancreas, the duodenum, and a portion of the stomach, as well as the gallbladder and a section of the bile duct. The remaining areas are reconnected to the digestive tract to restore flow of digestion, digestive enzymes and bile. 

  • Pylorus-sparing Whipple
    In a pylorus-sparing Whipple, the portion of the stomach is not removed during the operation. This procedure is done for smaller tumors or benign disease. 

What Can I Expect? 

The surgery can last between 4 and 6 hours for the open “traditional” surgery to between 6 and 8 hours for the totally Robotic surgery. After surgery, most patients go to the surgical post-operative floor while some patients require the ICU for a few days. The typical length of stay is 7-10 days in the hospital. Recovery is 6 to 8 weeks and sometimes most of that is done at home. Most patients return to normal with minimal long-term side effects.


Robotic surgery involves risk, some of which may be similar to those of conventional open surgery, such as a small risk of infection and other complications.

Are You a Candidate for Robotic Surgery?

Robotic surgery isn't an option for everyone. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of robotic surgery and how it compares with other techniques, such as other types of minimally invasive surgery and conventional open surgery.

Robotic surgery may not be available at all Dignity Health hospitals and medical centers in your area.