Distal pancreatectomy patients are at risk of developing bacterial infections if the spleen is also removed, as stated by Spectrum Health. Other potential complications for pancreatectomy patients include delayed gastric emptying, fluid collection, pancreatic leak, pneumonia, bleeding and blood clots.
Although a distal pancreatectomy is less complex than the Whipple operation, the removal of the spleen along with the tail or body of the pancreas means the patient must take antibiotics for the rest of his life to prevent infections, according to Pancreatic Cancer Action. An anastomotic leak is the most common complication of any pancreatic surgery, occurring when the joints between the pancreas and another organ do not heal properly. This allows the contents of the pancreas to leak out, but most of these leaks dry up on their own. In rare instances, the doctor may need to insert a drain into the abdomen or perform a second surgery.
If the stomach does not readily adapt to the changes after surgery, delayed emptying may occur, as noted by Pancreatic Cancer Action. Patients may need to consume a liquid-only diet or take nourishment through a naso-gastric tube until the problem resolves. Smokers are especially prone to developing chest infections after surgery, and patients may need to consult with a physiotherapist to learn to breathe and cough properly if this occurs.