"We did not even cut open the abdomen to take out the tumour. It was taken out through the vagina, which helped reduce damage to the surrounding vessels," said Dr Brij Bhushan Agarwal, vice chairman, department of laparoscopic and general surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH).
Also known as pancreaticoduodenectomy, the Whipple procedure involves removal of the "head" (wide part) of the pancreas next to the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). It also involves removal of the duodenum, a portion of the common bile duct, gallbladder, and sometimes part of the stomach. Afterward, surgeons reconnect the remaining intestine, bile duct, and pancreas.
Dr Agarwal said open surgery takes nearly 10 hours and even with a robot's assistance the Whipple procedure took more than 15 hours to complete.
The patient, a 40-year-old woman from Uttam Nagar in west Delhi, is said to be doing fine post-surgery. "She was discharged on the sixth day after the procedure. Her clinical and lab parameters are fine and she has resumed her household duties too," Dr Agarwal said.
Dr S K Sarin, director of Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), said the successful surgery with a robot is a landmark achievement. "It is the future of pancreatic cancer surgery. With careful selection of patients and the right expertise, it can help save more lives."