• Cancer

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Advancing pancreatic cancer treatment with total robotic Whipple surgery

New technologies are improving pancreatic cancer treatment, offering hope to patients facing one of the least survivable forms of cancer. The Whipple procedure, a complex surgery for localized pancreatic cancer, can now be done robotically.  

Dr. Zhi Ven Fong, a Mayo Clinic surgical oncologist, says innovations in technology allow surgeons to do this highly complex operation in a minimally invasive way. And that helps the patient. Dr. Fong explains what happens during a total robotic Whipple procedure.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:09) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

The Whipple procedure involves removing the head of the pancreas, part of the small intestine, gall bladder and bile duct.

Before a Whipple operation. Areas shown in gray typically will be removed. Right: After reconstruction is done during a Whipple operation.

"With the robotic approach, we believe that the incisions are smaller, the recoveries quicker and less pain," says Dr. Fong.

During surgery, Dr. Fong looks into a 3D camera while guiding the robot from a console.

Dr. Zhi Fong, total robotic Whipple surgery
Dr. Zhi Fong guides the robot's arms during a total robotic Whipple surgery

"It provides me a three-dimensional image of the actual patient's abdomen through the camera," he says.

Dr. Fong can then control the robotic arms that perform the intricate procedure.

Dr. Zhi Fong closeup up total robotic Whipple surgery
Closeup of Dr. Zhi Fong's hands during a total robotic Whipple surgery

The robotic surgery may take longer than traditional surgery, but it offers additional advantages including shorter length of stay and less long-term wound complications.

Dr Nabil Wasif in surgery, Total Robotic Whipple Surgery
Dr Nabil Wasif works in tandem with Dr. Zhi Fong during total robotic Whipple surgery

Candidate for robotic Whipple surgery

The best candidate for the surgery depends on the person and the cancer.

"Typically, patients have a lower BMI and the pancreatic cancers that don't involve the main visceral vessels that passes through the pancreas," says Dr. Fong.

If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your healthcare team will talk with you about treatment options.

More about pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer usually doesn't show symptoms until it's advanced.

Treatment options for pancreatic cancer depend on the type, stage, and other factors and may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of these.

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