Treatment for Pancreatitis

Total Pancreatectomy

A total pancreatectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the entire pancreas, as well as the gallbladder and common bile duct, portions of the small intestine and stomach and, most often, the spleen. The procedure is often the right choice for patients with chronic pancreatitis or those who are at risk of developing pancreatic cancer. As a major procedure, our pancreatologists carefully consider whom this is right for.

Following a total pancreatectomy, patients need to learn how carefully to manage their health, including administering their own pancreatic enzymes. Most patients will develop a form of diabetes known as type 3c Diabetes Mellitus. Often, the islets — the cells that make insulin and other hormones — can be harvested after removal of the pancreas and reinjected into the patient a few days later. This this can help minimize the diabetes that develops after total pancreatectomy, but in patients with precancerous or cancerous cells, the islets cannot be harvested due to possible contamination with cancer cells. Total pancreatectomy patients are informed partners in their own care, and we strive to provide comprehensive resources for our patients.

Understanding Total Pancreatectomy

BIDMC's Pancreas Center hosted the Barbara Janson and Arthur Hilsinger Total Pancreatectomy Symposium in November 2019, an event providing resources to primary care physicians, prospective patients, and their families for understanding total pancreatectomy. Made possible by the generosity of Art and Barbara, this symposium was motivated by their own experience with total pancreatectomy.

When Barbara was experiencing chronic pancreatitis and considering total pancreatectomy, her primary care physician was unable to answer her questions. After she received pancreatitis treatment from Dr. Steve Freedman, Director of the Pancreas Center, Barbara and our BIDMC team recognized the need to educate both providers and patients on the procedure and the experience of living without a pancreas.