The pancreas is a retroperitoneal accessory organ of the gastrointestinal tract. Its main function is to release various substances that help regulate the blood content levels, as well as aid in digestion. It is found lying transversely in the epigastric region of the abdomen and extending into the left hypochondriac region and is located behind the stomach.
- Most of the pancreas, except the tail, is retroperitoneal.
- It overlies and transversely crosses the L1-L2 vertebra (so it is seen in the transpyloric plane).
- The pancreas lies posterior to the stomach between the duodenum on the right and the spleen on the left.
NOTE: because the normal pancreas lies against the posterior body wall behind several abdominal organs, it is almost impossible to palpate. Therefore, tumors or cysts of the pancreas may grow to be quite large before they are detectable by palpation.