Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Pancreas

The pancreas is a gland that is about six inches long and located in the abdomen. It is surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver, spleen, and gallbladder. It’s shaped like a flat pear. The wide end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle sections are the neck and body, and the thin end is the tail. The unciform process is the part of the gland that bends back and under the head of the pancreas. The tail is on the left side of the body, while the head and the unciform process are on the right. Two very important blood vessels, the superior mesenteric artery and the superior mesenteric vein, cross behind the neck of the pancreas and in front of the unciform process.

The pancreatic duct passes through the pancreas and carries pancreatic secretions to the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum. The common bile duct runs from the gallbladder behind the head of the pancreas to the point where it joins the pancreatic duct and forms the vater ampulla in the duodenum.


The pancreas has two main functions, exocrine function and endocrine function. Exocrine cells in the pancreas produce enzymes that help digestion. When food enters the stomach, the exocrine glands release enzymes into a system of ducts that reach the main pancreatic duct. The pancreatic duct releases enzymes in the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), where enzymes help in the digestion of fats, carbohydrates, and food proteins.


The second function of the pancreas is endocrine function, which involves the production of hormones or substances that are produced in one part of the body and circulate in the bloodstream to influence another part of the body. The two main pancreatic hormones are insulin and glucagon. Langerhans islet cells within the pancreas produce and secrete insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. Insulin serves to lower the level of glucose in the blood (glycemia) while glucagon increases it. Together, these two major hormones work to maintain the right level of glucose in the blood.


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