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Pancreas Anatomy

Overview

The pancreas, named for the Greek words pan (all) and kreas (flesh), is a 12-15–cm long J-shaped (like a hockey stick), soft, lobulated, retroperitoneal organ. It lies transversely, although a bit obliquely, on the posterior abdominal wall behind the stomach, across the lumbar (L1-2) spine (see the image below).

Pancreas anatomy.

Pancreas anatomy.

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Embryology

The pancreas develops as 2 buds (outpouchings) of endoderm from the primitive duodenum at the junction of the foregut and the midgut. A small ventral bud (pouch) forms the lower (inferior) part of the head and the uncinate process of pancreas, whereas a large dorsal bud (pouch) forms the upper (superior) part of the head as well as the body and tail of the pancreas. The ventral bud rotates behind the duodenum dorsally from right to left and fuses with the dorsal bud, and the duct of the distal part (body and tail) of the dorsal bud unites with the duct of the ventral bud to form the main pancreatic duct (of Wirsung). Because the common bile duct (CBD) also arises from the ventral bud, it forms a common channel with the main pancreatic duct. The remaining proximal part (head) of the duct of the dorsal bud remains as the accessory pancreatic duct (of Santorini).

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