The structure of the human pancreas - location, anatomy, function

The main function of the pancreas is the production of pancreatic juice, which provides digestion processes. The physiology of the gland is quite specific, which is explained by the activity of secretion, on which it depends.

The principle of operation of this body is quite simple. As soon as a person starts eating, the gradual development of pancreatic juice begins. This is due to the fact that in the oral cavity of each person there are special receptors that transmit a signal to the pancreas, after which its work begins.

Thus, two main functions of this body can be distinguished:

  • Full participation in digestion.
  • Adjusting blood sugar.

Pancreatic function

For the development of pancreatic juice, which allows you to digest the food entering the body, acini are responsible. In addition, they transport juice to the Wirsung duct, which is the main channel of this organ.

The gastric juice itself consists of two components:

  1. Enzymes Each individual enzyme processes the contents of the incoming food, i.e. breaks down carbohydrates, proteins and fats into components that the body can absorb.
  2. Bicarbonates These substances block acids that are passed from the stomach to the duodenum.

If the pancreas begins to function improperly, its ducts become poorly passable, and digestive enzymes begin to concentrate inside the organ itself. Naturally, the function of the enzymes remains the same, i.e. they begin to break down not proteins and carbohydrates, but pancreatic cells, which leads to the formation of toxic substances and necrosis.

In particular, acute pancreatitis develops in a similar way. This condition is characterized by severe pain in the pancreas, which requires the onset of immediate therapeutic action.

In addition to the exocrine part, there is an endocrine organ site. If the acini occupy about 98% of the gland, then only 2% of the cells called islets of Langerhans realize the endocrine function. These cells produce special hormones that metabolize fats and carbohydrates.

The following types of hormones are produced:

  • Insulin is a hormone that controls all the substances that enter the cells.
  • Glucagon is responsible for controlling blood glucose. In addition, if there is a lack of glucose, then glucagon produces it from the stores of adipose tissue.
  • Polypeptin. It has a similar function with somatostatin, i.e. he is able to stop the action of all hormones if their functioning is temporarily not required.

In this case, insulin plays a special role. If it is not enough in the body, then diabetes develops - a disease that is considered incurable.

Throughout life, a person should monitor the sugar levels in his blood, decreasing or increasing the amount of insulin.

Anatomical features

Pancreas anatomy is extremely important in understanding the functioning of this organ, as well as its role throughout the body. The pancreas is a slightly elongated organ with a dense structure. If you evaluate its size, then by this parameter it is second only to the liver.

If you do an ultrasound, then the echogenicity of the pancreas will be quite comparable with similar studies of the liver, i.e. It will be of uniform structure and fine-grained. Interestingly, there is a definite relationship between human complexion and the echogenicity of this organ. So, in thin people there is increased echogenicity, and in full - reduced.

During pregnancy, at about 5 weeks, the initial development of this organ occurs. The process of pancreas formation continues until the child is six years old. Naturally, the size of the organ gradually increases, depending on the age of the child:

  1. Newborn baby - size about 5.5 cm.
  2. The child is 1 year old - about 7 cm in size.
  3. In a ten-year-old child, the size of the gland reaches already 15 cm.

The size of the pancreas, its structure

If we talk about the size of the organ in an adult, then they can be different. On average, the length of the gland is in the range from 16 to 23 cm, with a thickness of not more than 5 cm. The weight of the organ also differs, depending on the age of the person. For example, in a middle-aged man or woman, this organ can weigh from 60 to 80 grams, and in older people - no more than 60 grams.

The parameters of the body may not correspond to the above standards. An increase in the organ can occur with pancreatitis, which is characterized by an inflammatory process and tissue swelling. Thus, the enlarged organ presses on other internal organs located nearby, which has its negative effect on the body.

On the other hand, atrophy of the parenchyma is characterized by a decrease in the size of the pancreas. That is why, if you have at least one characteristic symptom, such as acute pain in the stomach, you should immediately seek help.

The structure of the organ is as follows:

  • Head. It is the thickest part of the gland, and it is located in the loop of the duodenum, slightly to the right of the spine.
  • Body. It is located deep in the abdominal cavity, passing to the left of the stomach.
  • The tail, where hormone-producing cells are located. It is located near the spleen.

In general, the main part of this organ is the parenchyma, which is covered on top with a dense capsule. The share of the parenchyma of the entire structure of the organ is 98 percent of the total mass.

Organ Location

The location of the pancreas is also important in understanding the functioning of the organ. As we have said, the position of the body is as follows:

  1. The main part of the gland, with the exception of the head, is located behind the stomach. Both the body and the tail of the organ are located on the left side of the abdominal cavity just above the navel - about 7 cm.
  2. As for, it is covered by a horseshoe-shaped loop of the duodenum.

The location of the pancreas is such that it is completely protected on all sides. The spinal column is located behind the gland, and the stomach in front. On the sides, everything is also protected:

  • On the right is the duodenum.
  • On the left is the spleen.

Communication with other bodies

The work of the pancreas is closely related to the functioning of organs located in close proximity. Around the gland are the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, liver, many blood vessels, etc. Naturally, if one of the organs is affected by any pathology, then this can affect the condition of other organs located nearby. This explains the similarity of the symptoms of various ailments.

The activity of the functioning of the gland is closely related to the normal functioning of the duodenum. For example, if a person suffers from a bowel ulcer, then with a high degree of probability he will be diagnosed with pancreatitis. A sign of this disease is an inflammatory process in the gland caused by narrowing of the ducts.

If the appropriate treatment is not started in time, then the pancreas may simply cease to function. Those. the body will not produce the enzyme composition and hormones, and the tissues of the body will be defeated by necrosis and the gradual replacement of scar and connective tissue.

In addition, there is a risk of purulent infections, which is already a real threat to the patient's life, because peritonitis develops against their background.

Pancreatic disease

According to ICD-10, the pancreas can suffer from several diseases.

The most common ailment from which people of different ages suffer is acute pancreatitis.

In most cases, this disease occurs due to the fault of the person who abuse alcohol.

In addition, acute pancreatitis occurs for the following reasons:

  1. Abundant use of harmful foods, including fatty and smoked foods.
  2. Hereditary factors.
  3. Stones in the gall bladder.
  4. Traumatic factor, as well as complications after surgery.
  5. Infectious diseases.
  6. Acceptance of certain groups of medicines.

It is clear that with this ailment, a fairly strict diet is prescribed, completely eliminating salty, fried and spicy foods.

In addition, a cyst on this organ is often diagnosed. It is a bubble filled with fluid located in the parenchyma. The cause of the appearance of cystic formation can be not only the wrong lifestyle of a person, but also the presence of third-party diseases.

In particular, pancreatitis of various forms, infection, as well as malignant and benign neoplasms can affect the appearance of a cyst.

If a person has a disrupted process of insulin production in the body, then he develops diabetes. Most often, it appears against the background of a person’s genetic predisposition to this ailment, but there may be other reasons:

  • Overweight.
  • Other diseases of this organ.
  • Permanent stay in stressful situations.
  • Influenza and other viral infections.
  • Old age.

Here is a list of other diseases in which the pancreas suffers.

Pancreatic necrosis. This disease is characterized by a destructive change in the organ parenchyma, which can occur against the background of acute pancreatitis. There are other reasons for the development of this pathology, but in almost 10% of cases it is not possible to find out all the circumstances that provoked this ailment.

Crayfish. This disease is considered quite rare, but it also occurs. Among the provoking factors can be noted the abuse of bad habits, overweight and a genetic factor.

As we see, many of the problems with the pancreas could have been avoided if the person was more strict about his lifestyle. Alcohol, cigarettes, fatty and salty foods - all this, one way or another, affects the state of this organ. Of course, pancreatic diseases arise not only against the background of abuse of bad habits, but they are one of the main causes of the above pathologies.

Various medications can help in the fight against them, but it is important to understand that without changing your lifestyle and diet, it is unlikely that you can achieve results in treatment.


The pancreas performs many important functions, without which the body would not be possible. That is why it is important to monitor its condition, once again not overloading with harmful products and alcohol. This affects not only the state of the organ itself, but also provokes the appearance of tumor formations.

The structure and functions of the pancreas are described in the video in this article.

The location and macroscopic structure of the pancreas

The largest gland of the digestive system is located horizontally in the back of the abdominal cavity. The anatomical location of the pancreas is the level of the lumbar vertebrae (L1-L2) and stomach. The digestive system organ has a lobular structure, consisting of small parts (lobules) surrounded by a common bag. Glandular tissue is surrounded by a fatty coating that protects the soft structure of the pancreas from mechanical damage. The segments of the anatomical organ have their own innervation and vascularization, that is, the system of blood vessels.

Pancreatic juice is excreted by the tubules into the pancreas, the end of which is located in the wall of the duodenum. The digestive system also has a common bile duct coming from the liver and gall bladder. Macroscopic structure of the pancreas:

  • The head, located on the right side, adjacent to the duodenum.
  • A body having a trihedral shape.
  • Tail - conical or pear-shaped part.

Most of this elongated organ with an irregular cross section is located on the left side of the midline of the body.

The microscopic structure of the pancreas

The microscopic structure of the pancreas is a complex alveolar-tubular form responsible for two main functions: exocrine and endocrine. The exocrine or exocrine part is formed by intravesical cells, responsible for the production of numerous enzymes and goblet cells producing mucus. A mixture of these ingredients is a pancreatic juice, which is formed in an amount of from 0.5 to 2 liters per day. The enzyme produced takes part in the digestion of products in the duodenum and in the further sections of the intestine.

The endocrine, or intrasecretory part of the so-called islets of Langerhans, is a cluster of producing hormonal cells located in the tail of the pancreas. They are scattered throughout the organ parenchyma, and do not form a separate part of it.

On the islets of Langerhans, several types of cells have been identified that produce various hormones and proteins:

  • alpha cells secrete glucagon, being an insulin antagonist,
  • beta cells secrete insulin, inhibiting gluconeogenesis,
  • delta cells secrete somatostatin, which inhibits glandular secretions,
  • pp cells secrete pancreatic polypeptide, which stimulates the secretion of gastric juice,
  • epsilon cells secrete ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite.

Pancreatic enzymes

Enzymes contained in pancreatic juice play an important role in the digestion of food contents, distributing its composition into simpler elements - carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The most significant of them:

  • amylase,
  • trypsinogen
  • chymotrypsinogen,
  • pancreatic lipase
  • phospholipases
  • carboxypeptidases.

Some of these substances are produced and secreted in the form of inactive proenzymes to avoid self-healing of the pancreas. Their final conversion into powerful enzymes occurs in the intestinal lumen under the influence of substances secreted there, including enterokinase and previously activated hormones.

Pancreatic hormones and their functions

The most important hormones secreted by the pancreas are insulin and glucagon. Together they regulate carbohydrate metabolism. Insulin increases the penetration of glucose into cells and accumulates its reserves, mainly in the muscles and liver, in the form of glycogen. These components are an energy reserve for the human body.

Insulin deficiency leads to one of the most dangerous and at the same time common diseases - type 1 diabetes. If the pancreas does not produce enough hormone, a patient who is not taking treatment is at risk of death.
Glucagon has the opposite effect - it increases the level of glucose in the blood and increases its availability in stressful situations, during physical or intellectual activities. Such a process causes glycogenolysis in the body, that is, the breakdown of glycogen.

Some pancreatic cells on the islet of Langerhans also produce hormones that are necessary for human physiological development, for example, somatostatin, which modulates the secretion of growth hormone.

Common pancreatic diseases

The structure and location of the pancreas and the substances that it produces have a significant impact on the course of painful processes in this organ. Due to the placement in the back of the abdominal cavity, the diagnosis of pancreatic diseases becomes late, especially if the inflammatory processes are located in the tail. This delays the implementation of proper treatment. It is difficult to determine an increase in the pancreas due to inflammation, the presence of a cyst or cancer.

Often the first sign pancreatic inflammation - jaundice and acute pancreatitis. A similar effect can be caused by blocking the duodenal canal by gallstones. The development of acute inflammation usually occurs quickly, with very severe ailments. This can lead to peritonitis and a life threat to the patient due to shock, dehydration and insulin deficiency. Uncontrolled release of digestive enzymes and their activation in the pancreatic parenchyma can lead to self-healing or necrosis.

The structure of the pancreas

Pancreas anatomy includes the following characteristics. The approximate weight of the organ is 100 g, the length is up to 15 cm. For various pathologies, the size of the organ can vary. When inflammation occurs (pancreatitis), the size usually increases, with iron atrophy decreases.

The organ is usually divided into 3 parts: the head, body and tail.

The first is located near the duodenum. The tail adjoins the spleen, it is higher than the head and body.

In adults, the upper border of the gland is at the level of 8-10 cm above the navel. In children, the organ is located higher, with age it falls.

The structure of the pancreas is complex, as it takes part in two different organ systems.

The outer shell consists of a dense layer of connective tissue, which performs a protective function.

The pancreas is located deep in the retroperitoneal cavity. Due to the anatomical location, it is well sheltered from damage. In front, it is protected by the abdominal wall and internal organs, in the back by muscles and the spine. Knowing the features of the location of the organ in the human body, one can diagnose pancreatitis or other disorders with a high degree of certainty. Since the tail of the gland is located closer to the spleen, pain with impaired functionality will not only be felt in the epigastric region, but will also be given to the right or left hypochondrium (in some cases, to the back).

The structure of the pancreas has features: the tissue consists of a large number of lobules (acini), separated by partitions. Between the acini are the islets of Langerhans, which are the structural units of the organ. These sites are responsible for the production of hormones of internal secretion. The acinus consists of 8-12 cone-shaped cells tightly adjacent to each other, between which ducts are located to remove secretion.

Organ blood supply

To ensure the proper functioning of iron, it has a complex blood supply scheme, since its anatomy is complex and requires the performance of several functions.

The upper pancreatoduodenal artery and the branches of the hepatic artery supply blood to the front of the head, while the posterior region is washed by the lower artery.

The body and tail are supplied with blood by branches of the splenic artery, which are divided inside the body into a large number of capillaries.

The outflow of waste blood is provided by the superior and inferior pancreatoduodenal veins.

Digestive function

The common duct of the gland enters the cavity of the duodenum. It has a beginning in the tail, and in the head connects to the ducts of the gallbladder.

The role of the organ in digestion is ensured by the production and release of digestive enzymes into the digestive tract, such as:

  • lipase - breaks down fats to fatty acids and glycerin,
  • amylase - converts complex carbohydrates into glucose, which enters the bloodstream and gives the body energy,
  • trypsin - breaks down proteins into simple amino acids,
  • chemotrypsin - performs the same function as trypsin.

The task of enzymes is the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates and proteins into simple substances and help the body in their absorption. The secret has an alkaline reaction and neutralizes the acid that the food has undergone for processing in the stomach. With pathology (for example, pancreatitis), the gland channels overlap, the secret stops flowing into the duodenum. Fats penetrate the intestine in its original form, and the secret stagnates in the duct and begins to digest organ tissue, resulting in necrosis and a large amount of toxins.

Endocrine organ function.

As noted, about 2% of the gland mass is occupied by cells called islets of Langerhans. They produce hormones that regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.

Hormones that produce islets of Langerhans:

  • insulin, which is responsible for the entry of glucose into the cells,
  • glucagon, responsible for the amount of glucose in the blood,
  • somatostatin, which, if necessary, stops the production of enzymes and hormones.

In a day, people develop up to 1.5 liters of secretion.


Descriptions of the pancreas are found in the writings of ancient anatomists. One of the first descriptions of the pancreas is found in the Talmud, where it is called the "finger of God." A. Vesalius (1543) as follows describes the pancreas and its purpose: "in the center of the mesentery, where the first distribution of blood vessels occurs, there is a large glandular gland that reliably supports the very first and significant branching of blood vessels." In describing the duodenum, Vesalius also mentions a glandular body, which, according to the author, supports the vessels belonging to this intestine and irrigates its cavity with sticky moisture. A century later, the main duct of the pancreas was described by Wirsung (1642).

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Watch the video: The Role and Anatomy of the Pancreas (April 2020).