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New Tools to Help Fight Pancreatic Cancer

University of Colorado Hospital now offers specialists and a minimally-invasive surgery that are offered at few centers in the nation

11/28/2012
Laparoscopic Whipple procedure

AURORA, Colo. – Patients at the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) are now among very few in the world to gain the benefit of one of the most advanced minimally-invasive techniques in surgery of the pancreas. Barish Edil, MD, Director of Pancreatic Surgery, and Dr. Richard Schulick, MD, Chair of Surgery, performed this groundbreaking operation on October 22, 2012, and the patient is now recovering well.

The Whipple surgery, named after the surgeon Allen Whipple, is a complicated and highly specialized operation that is used to remove the head of the pancreas, surrounding duodenum and end of the bile duct. While the traditional Whipple surgery is not new, performing such a major surgery entirely laparoscopically is. It is thought that this approach lessens the risk of postoperative wound infections, reduces pain and allows for a faster recovery.

"I believe the laparoscopic Whipple is a great advancement for pancreatic surgery," said Dr. Edil. "I've dedicated my life to treating pancreatic cancer, and this new surgical approach can potentially improve my patients' quality of life and time to recovery."

Dr. Edil is considered one of the nation's leading experts on laparoscopic Whipples. He joined the University of Colorado Hospital from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland where he established this surgery. 

Dr. Schulick, who also came from Johns Hopkins Hospital, is one of the most renowned pancreatic surgeons in the world and a leading expert at treating pancreatic cancer. He made it a priority to help establish a multi-disciplinary program at the University of Colorado Hospital.

"Experience and expertise are incredibly important for patient outcomes," said Dr. Schulick. "The risk of serious complications can be up to ten times higher for patients in the hands of a less experienced surgeon and the overall outcomes may not be as favorable."

Dr. Schulick believes that offering patients a choice of traditional and minimally invasive surgical procedures, like the laparoscopic Whipple, in addition to providing a multi-disciplinary approach to the initial diagnosis of pancreas and biliary diseases will provide the most cutting edge care for patients from across the nation. He has worked to establish a Pancreas and Biliary Center at the University of Colorado Hospital with other leaders across the institution including Dr. Thomas Purcell, Medical Director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, and Dr. Colin Weekes, both expert medical oncologists.

"We wouldn't recommend this surgery for every patient, but we have the tools we need to provide the very best personalized care for every patient. The pancreatic cancer specialists at UCH are among the very best in the world," Dr. Schulick said.

The establishment of this cutting edge pancreas and biliary center is only one of a number of expanding clinical programs. New programs are also being developed in vascular, cardiothoracic and colorectal diseases offering specialized care for UCH patients.

"As this laparoscopic Whipple operation demonstrates, the doctors and surgeons at the University of Colorado Hospital are constantly researching and performing the newest, most innovative techniques," said UCH CEO John Harney. "We're proud to provide the very best care in the world right here in Aurora, Colorado."

For more information or to request an appointment at Pancreas and Biliary Center at UCH call 855-UCH-PANC or visit UCH Pancreas and Biliary Center.

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