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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Sudarshana Datta, MD [2]


Herophilus of Chalcedon (circa 300 B.C.), the father of scientific anatomy, was the first to describe the pancreas but he had no conception of its function. Rufus of Ephesus (circa 100 A.D)  coined the term pancreas (from the Greek words pan meaning all and kreas meaning flesh). It literally means all flesh due to its homogeneous composition. In 1679, Morgagni was the first to recognize cancer of the pancreas and described the pancreas of one of his patients as a dry white pancreas of a scirrhous nature with “pretty hard” distinct lobules. By the late 1800s, the clinical symptoms, signs and histology of pancreatic cancer had been defined. Bard and Pit differentiated between duct, acinar cell and islet cell cancers. Trendelenburg was the first to successfully excise a solid tumor of the pancreas and Kappeler described the first cholecystojejunostomy performed as palliative therapy in a pancreatic cancer patient. In February 1955, Whipple performed a two stage operation for carcinoma of the ampulla, where a cholecystojejunostomy and total duodenectomy were performed. This was the first total duodenectomy to be recorded in a human subject. Whipple and Nelson subsequently performed the first ever recorded one-stage pancreaticoduodenectomy followed by occlusion of the pancreas. Post 1940, the one-stage has been modified repeatedly by surgeons world wide. Even today, the treatment of pancreatic cancer continues to be a dilemma. However, the mortality rate for pancreatoduodenal resection has declined considerably after 1970.

Historical Perspective

History of the pancreas

The history of the pancreas is as follows:[1]

  • Due to its hidden retroperitoneal location, the pancreas was initially termed as the hermit organ by 20th century surgeons and ignored both as an organ and as a seat of disease.
  • The pancreas was first recognized as a discrete organ by the Greeks.
  • Herophilus of Chalcedon (circa 300 B.C.), the father of scientific anatomy, was the first to describe the pancreas but he had no conception of its function.
  • Rufus of Ephesus (circa 100 A.D)  coined the term pancreas (from the Greek words pan: all and kreas: flesh).
  • The pancreas, literally means all flesh due to its homogeneous composition.

16th century:

  • Vesalius described the pancreas and the vessels running through it, but knew nothing of the ductal system or its function.

17th century:

  • Johann George Wirsung achieved medical immortality when he described the main duct of the human pancreas which currently bears his name.

18th century:

  • In 1742, Santorini illustrated the accessory duct which currently bears his name.

19th century:

History of pancreatic cancer:

The history of the pancreatic cancer is as follows:[2][3][4][5][6]


  1. Lamadrid Montemayor F, Rico Nieva P (1972). "[Analgesic and antiphlogistic action of benzidamine in obstetrics]". Ginecol Obstet Mex (in Spanish; Castilian). 32 (190): 209–12. PMID 4560737.
  2. Busnardo AC, DiDio LJ, Tidrick RT, Thomford NR (1983). "History of the pancreas" (PDF). American Journal of Surgery. 146 (5): 539–50. doi:10.1016/0002-9610(83)90286-6. PMID 6356946.
  3. Are C, Dhir M, Ravipati L (June 2011). "History of pancreaticoduodenectomy: early misconceptions, initial milestones and the pioneers". HPB : the official journal of the International Hepato Pancreato Biliary Association. 13 (6): 377–84. doi:10.1111/j.1477-2574.2011.00305.x. PMID 21609369.
  4. Cameron JL, Riall TS, Coleman J, Belcher KA (July 2006). "One thousand consecutive pancreaticoduodenectomies". Annals of surgery. 244 (1): 10–5. doi:10.1097/01.sla.0000217673.04165.ea. PMID 16794383.
  5. Klimstra DS, Modlin IR, Coppola D, Lloyd RV, Suster S (2010). "The pathologic classification of neuroendocrine tumors: a review of nomenclature, grading, and staging systems". Pancreas. 39 (6): 707–12. doi:10.1097/MPA.0b013e3181ec124e. PMID 20664470.
  6. Fernández-del Castillo C, Morales-Oyarvide V, McGrath D, Wargo JA, Ferrone CR, Thayer SP, Lillemoe KD, Warshaw AL (September 2012). "Evolution of the Whipple procedure at the Massachusetts General Hospital". Surgery. 152 (3 Suppl 1): S56–63. doi:10.1016/j.surg.2012.05.022. PMC 3806095. PMID 22770961.