Anatomy & embryology

Topic Completed: 1 August 2012

Minor changes: 22 October 2020

Copyright: 2002-2020,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Normal pancreas[TI]

Deepali Jain, M.D.
Page views in 2019: 2,299
Page views in 2020 to date: 1,447
Cite this page: Jain D. Anatomy & embryology. website. Accessed November 23rd, 2020.
  • 15 cm long, 60 - 140 g
  • Shape is compared to letter J turned sideways, with loop of J around the duodenum
  • Divided into head (right of left border of superior mesenteric vein; contains uncinate process), body (between left border of superior mesenteric vein and left border of aorta) and tail
  • Retroperitoneal organ, lies within duodenal curve, close to superior mesenteric artery and portal vein
  • Anterior body of pancreas touches posterior wall of stomach
  • Posterior of pancreas touches aorta, splenic vein and left kidney
  • Pancreatic tail extends to the splenic hilum
  • Has large functional reserve of cells
  • Forms from embryonic foregut, of endodermal origin (Wikipedia: Pancreas [Accessed 7 December 2017])
  • Pancreas forms from ventral and dorsal buds that rotate and fuse
  • Ventral bud (anlage) develops from hepatic duct, forms posterior / inferior head and uncinate process
  • Dorsal bud (anlage) develops from foregut and extends into dorsal mesentery; forms body, tail, anterior head
  • Fusion of ducts at week 7 creates main pancreatic duct (Wirsung) which extends to papilla of Vater, usually with common bile duct
  • Proximal portion of dorsal duct persists as accessory duct of Santorini, empties into minor duodenal papilla
  • Usually are numerous anastomotic connections between ducts of Wirsung and Santorini; if not, get pancreas divisum (10% of individuals), in which duct of Santorini is major drainage duct
  • Percentage of acinar cells decreases after birth

  • Anomalies:
    • In 2/3 of adults, pancreatic duct empties into common bile duct, not into ampulla directly
    • Abnormal fusion of ventral and dorsal buds causes annular pancreas or heterotopic pancreas
Drawings / diagrams

AFIP images

Development of human pancreas

Anatomy of pancreas

Images hosted on other servers:

Various images

Microscopic (histologic) images

AFIP images

10 week old fetus

10 week old fetus

Contributed by Grigory Demyashkin, M.D., Ph.D.

6-8 week embryo

Cytology images

AFIP images

Normal pancreatic acinar cells

Normal ductal cells, in sheet arrangement

Electron microscopy images

AFIP images

38 / 39 week old fetus


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