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Published on November 28, 2012

University of Colorado Hospital Performs Innovative, Less-Invasive Surgery to Remove Pancreatic Cancer

This is the first time a totally laparoscopic Whipple procedure has been performed in the Rocky Mountain region. Few institutions in the world perform this sophisticated operation.

AURORA, Colo. – Patients at 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.

A laparoscopic advance

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.

Drs. Richard Schulick and Barish Edil

Drs. Schulick (top) and Edil

“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.”

Renowned surgeons deepen UCH expertise

Dr. Edil is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on laparoscopic Whipples.  He joined 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 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.

Expanding clinical programs

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 the UCH Pancreas and Biliary Center web page.

About University of Colorado Hospital

University of Colorado Hospital is the Rocky Mountain region's leading academic medical center. UCH is best known as an innovator in patient care and often as one of the first hospitals to bring new medicine to the patients’ bedside.  University HealthSystem Consortium named UCH the #1 Academic Medical Center in quality in the nation in both 2011 and 2012, and U.S. News & World Report named University of Colorado Hospital the best hospital in Colorado in 2012.  UCH is one of five Colorado hospitals that make up University of Colorado Health

The hospital’s physicians are affiliated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, part of the University of Colorado system. Based on the expansive Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, CO, the hospital is where patient care, research and education converge to establish the future of health care delivery.

Contact: Dan Weaver at (720) 8487852 or dan.weaver@ucdenver.edu

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