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Anatomy of the Human Pancreas with Labeled Diagrams

The pancreas, that somewhat look like the head of a golf club, does the job of producing digestive juices. It can be divided into 4 parts―the head, neck, body, and the tail. This Buzzle article elaborates more on the anatomy of the human pancreas.
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Anatomy of the human pancreas
Did You Know?
Approximately 60% of pancreatic cancers occur in the head of the pancreas, while the rest 40% are detected in the body and tail areas.
When talking about the digestive system, the first things that comes to our mind are the stomach, along with the small and large intestines. However, another organ that is often not talked about a lot, but forms an inseparable part of the digestive system, is the pancreas. This organ produces pancreatic juice, without which, we would have had a hard time digesting food. Moreover, malfunctions involving the pancreas may lead to the onset of chronic ailments, one example being diabetes.

The following talks about the location of the pancreas in the human body, along with details related to the anatomy of this important organ.

Location of the Pancreas in the Human Body
Pancreas Location

The pancreas is a soft, greyish-pink J-shaped glandular organ that lies in the abdominal region at the rear of the stomach. It is around 12 to 15 cm long and 4 cm wide, and sits across the lumbar spine. The head of the pancreas resides within the curve of the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine. This organ that is guarded by the rib cage plays a crucial role in aiding digestion. The rubbery gland secretes enzymes that promote the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in simpler forms to facilitate their absorption. Another important function of the pancreas is to release the insulin hormone, which assists in controlling blood sugar.

Anatomy of the Human Pancreas
The shape of the pancreas resembles that of a tadpole; hence, anatomically, it can be divided into 4 sections―the head, neck, body, and the tail. The pancreas also has a supplementary component known as the uncinate process, which is different from other sections on the basis of anatomy.

Pancreas Anatomy

Head: The head section lies to the right side of the abdominal region in the close proximity of the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). It is the widest part of the pancreas, that is tucked in the C-shaped duodenal curve.

Uncinate Process: The uncinate process is an extended portion of the head that appears very similar to a hook. It is this section that is bent and forms an angle with the rest of the body.

Neck: This short section that lies between the head and the body is around 2.5 cm long. It lies posterior to the pyloric part of the stomach. The neck runs from the top-right portion of the head of the pancreas to the left, to connect with the body of the organ.

Body: This is the major part of the pancreas that lies between its neck and tail. This body region looks very similar to a prism. The stomach is just above the body of the pancreas, and is separated by the omental bursa, a pouch that lies between these two organs.

Tail: This is the narrowest region of the pancreas, runs to the left side of the abdomen, and is adjacent to the spleen. This narrow end of the pancreas releases pancreatic polypeptide (amino acids), which helps keep a check on the secretory activity of the organ.

Surface: The body has 3 surfaces; namely, the inferior, posterior, and the anterior. The anterior surface lies opposite the front of the abdomen. The right half of this surface touches the transverse colon. The lower region of the right half touches the coils of the small intestine. The inferior surface is coated with a peritoneum serous membrane. The right side of the surface is narrower, while the left side is broader. The surface sits on the duodenojejunal―the border between the duodenum and the jejunum.

Pancreas Surface

Margins: Margins refer to the border or edge of the pancreas. The pancreas is bounded by 3 margins, which include the superior, inferior, and the anterior margin. The superior margin is flat at the right, and becomes narrower as it reaches the tail. On the other hand, the inferior margin acts as a line of separation between the posterior and inferior surface. The anterior margin helps differentiate between the anterior and inferior surface of the organ.

Pancreatic Duct: The pancreatic duct is a small tube that runs from the head of the pancreas and enters the duodenum. It acts like a medium of connection between these two organs. In the pancreas, it runs from the left to right, and has numerous branches, known as lobular ducts. In the neck area of this organ, the pancreatic duct is slightly wider and moves downwards to connect with the common bile duct. The pancreas secretes digestive juices, which pass through the pancreatic duct and subsequently flow into the small intestine from the duodenum.

Blood Supply: The celiac artery and the superior mesenteric artery transport blood to the pancreas. Blood circulation to the neck, body, and tail of the pancreas comes from the branches of the splenic artery, an offshoot of the celiac artery. The head of the pancreas receives blood from the superior and inferior pancreaticoduodenal artery, that moves along the border of the front and back surfaces of the head of the pancreas.
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Published: August 20, 2014
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