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Pancreas in situ

Learning objectives

After working through this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Describe the structure and function of the pancreas.
  2. Understand the relations of the pancreas to the nearby structures and organs.
  3. Distinguish the neurovascular supply to the pancreas.

Watch videos

The pancreas is an accessory retroperitoneal organ of the digestive system that has both exocrine and endocrine functions. It helps digestion by producing pancreatic juices which are secreted into the duodenum. These juices consist of enzymes that break down sugars, fats, and starches. The pancreas also produces important hormones (insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin) that regulate blood sugar levels.

The following video will help you learn everything you should know about the pancreas, its anatomy, function, relations to surrounding structures and clinical importance.

Take a quiz

After watching the video, take the next step and solidify your knowledge with our quiz about the pancreas

You can challenge yourself even further with this customizable quiz about the pancreas:

Browse atlas

Revise everything that you have learned by analyzing each structure of the pancreas and accompanying structures individually in our atlas gallery:


Key points about the pancreas
Definition Accessory gland of the digestive system with endocrine and exocrine functions.
Location Retroperitoneal, behind the stomach.
Relations Anterior: stomach, transverse mesocolon.
Posterior: common bile duct, aorta, inferior vena cava, hepatic portal vein, left kidney, left suprarenal gland
Superior: splenic artery.
Lateral-right: duodenum.
Lateral-left: spleen.
Parts Head, uncinate process, neck, body, tail.
Function Exocrine: secretes enzymatic fluids that break down nutrients.
secretes hormones that regulate metabolism (insulin, glucagon, somatostatin).
Neurovascular supply Arterial supply: superior and inferior pancreaticoduodenal arteries
splenic artery, gastroduodenal artery, superior mesenteric artery.
Venous drainage:
pancreaticoduodenal veins, superior mesenteric vein, hepatic portal vein, pancreatic veins, splenic vein.
vagus nerve (parasympathetic), greater and lesser splanchnic nerves (sympathetic).

Well done!

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