Surgery for Small Intestine Cancer

NYU Langone doctors typically perform surgery to manage most small intestine tumors. Minimally invasive approaches are used whenever possible.

Small Bowel Resection

Doctors may surgically remove a piece of the small intestine containing the tumor, along with a margin of healthy tissue on either side of the tumor. Nearby lymph nodes and other surrounding tissues may also be removed if they contain cancer.

Surgeons then reconnect the ends of the remaining healthy portions of the intestines. This procedure is called a small bowel resection.

Whipple Procedure

NYU Langone surgeons may perform the Whipple procedure, also called a pancreaticoduodenectomy, for tumors in the duodenum that block the opening of the bile duct.

NYU Langone is a high-volume center for Whipple surgery. More than 50 of the procedures are performed here each year. Although Whipple surgery is complex, the success rate is higher at NYU Langone than at other medical centersā€”even at high-volume facilities.

During this procedure, the surgeon removes the duodenum and a portion of the pancreas. A portion of the common bile duct, some of the surrounding lymph nodes, and the gallbladder, which stores bile, are also removed. Sometimes a portion of the stomach near the duodenum is also removed during a Whipple procedure.

After the procedure, the surgeon reconnects the duodenum to the remaining pancreas, bile duct, and stomach, so you can digest food.

Surgical Approaches

Tumors in the small intestine can be removed safely via minimally invasive approaches. These procedures do not require the large abdominal incision of open procedures and offer a faster and easier recovery. Even the complex Whipple procedure can be performed laparoscopically.

Robotic-Assisted Surgery

Doctors at NYU Langoneā€™s Robotic Surgery Center may use an advanced surgical system to perform small intestine cancer surgery. The system consists of tiny surgical instruments mounted on three robotic arms. A fourth arm contains a video camera that creates magnified, high-definition, three-dimensional images on a computer monitor to guide the surgeon during the procedure.

During a robotic-assisted procedure, the surgical tools and camera are inserted through small incisions in the abdomen. The surgeon controls these instruments and the camera from a console in the operating room.

Robotic surgery provides doctors with an excellent view of the tumor and the surrounding organs and blood vessels. It also enhances a surgeonā€™s ability to perform the delicate aspects of small intestine surgery. The robotic arms allow more precise movements and a better range of motion than a surgeonā€™s hands.

Laparoscopic Surgery

Laparoscopic surgery involves several small incisions in the abdomen. Through one incision the surgeon places a laparoscope, a lighted tube with a tiny camera that creates two-dimensional images of the cancer and the surrounding organs.

The doctor places small surgical tools through the remaining incisions to perform the procedure. As with robotic surgery, laparoscopic surgery can reduce recovery time compared to open surgery.

Open Surgery

Open surgery, which requires a large abdominal incision, may be necessary for larger tumors and for those that are near critical structures, such as the pancreas and liver. People with abdominal scar tissue from previous surgeries may also need an open procedure.

Recovery from Surgery

Hospital recovery time for people whoā€™ve had robotic surgery and laparoscopic procedures may be several days shorter than for those whoā€™ve had open procedures. During the hospital stay, doctors monitor your overall health and manage any discomfort or pain with medications and support services.

If a resection involves removing only a small portion of the small intestine, digestion typically occurs as usual. However, you may need to change some of your eating patterns if you have Whipple surgery. Nutritional counseling is available at NYU Langoneā€™s Perlmutter Cancer Center.

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