The Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy) is an operation to remove the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), the gallbladder and the bile duct. The remaining organs are reattached to allow you to digest food normally after surgery. Up to half of patients develop serious complications and 2 to 4 percent do not survive the procedure — one of the highest mortality rates for any operation. One common complication is leakage of fluid from the pancreas after the surgery, often in large amounts that can cause an abscess and lead to infection and sepsis. It's possible to live without a pancreas. But when the entire pancreas is removed, people are left without the cells that make insulin and other hormones that help maintain safe blood sugar levels. These people develop diabetes, which can be hard to manage because they are totally dependent on insulin shots.