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A doctor explaining traditional vs robotic whipple surgery to a patient

The Whipple procedure, also called a pancreaticoduodenectomy, is a surgery that removes parts of the pancreas, small intestine and gallbladder to treat pancreatic cancer. At Moffitt Cancer Center, it can be performed either as a traditional procedure or as a minimally invasive, robotic-assisted procedure.

Traditional Whipple surgery

In a traditional, or open, procedure, a surgeon makes a single, large incision to remove and reconstruct the necessary tissues. In contrast, in a minimally invasive, robotic surgery approach, the surgeon makes several small incisions through which he introduces a camera and special instruments to remove and reconstruct the necessary tissues. Regardless of the approach, the same operation is performed inside the patient. Not all patients are appropriate candidates for robotic-assisted surgery. For some patients, an open approach is the best approach for their care.

Robotic Whipple surgery

Robotic technology is used to complete the surgery through a series of small incisions.

In cases where the robotic Whipple procedure is recommended, Moffitt uses the da Vinci® Surgical System, which includes many innovative features that allow for smaller, more precise movements during surgery. These features include:

  • A high-definition vision system that provides the surgeon with a magnified, 3D view while operating
  • Wristed instruments that can rotate and bend beyond the capabilities of a human hand
  • Robotic technology that translates the surgeon’s hand movements into smaller, more precise actions

Benefits of robotic Whipple surgery

Robotic technology offers many benefits to patients who require the Whipple procedure. Compared with traditional open surgery, robotic surgery typically leads to faster healing and recovery time, less scarring and decreased pain.

In Moffitt’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, a multispecialty team collaborates to review each case and determine if a traditional or robotic Whipple procedure should be included in a patient’s pancreatic cancer treatment plan. Moffitt patients benefit from having radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, medical oncologists, pathologists, surgeons and other experts working together to determine the best course of treatment for each individual.

The Whipple procedure is a highly complex surgery, and the experience of the surgeon performing the procedure, whether traditionally or robotically, can make all the difference in improving outcomes and quality of life for the patient. Because Moffitt is a high-volume cancer center, our surgeons treat many patients with pancreatic cancer and possess a high level of expertise in performing the Whipple procedure. In contrast, other treatment centers may only see a few cases of pancreatic cancer each year.

If you would like to learn more about the Whipple procedure and the differences between traditional and robotic approaches to this surgery, contact Moffitt by calling 1-888-663-3488 or filling out a new patient registration form online. We do not require a referral to schedule an appointment.