Data Driven Doc: The Ampulla of Vater


The Ampulla of Vater sounds like something straight out of Hogwarts, but it’s a special vase we all carry within our gut. Digestive juices from the bile ducts and the pancreas pool together in the ampulla to meet the food coming into the small intestine (duodenum) from the stomach in this action-packed area of the GI tract.

Naturally, even small tumors in and around the ampulla cause major problems. Blocking bile ducts causes a quick yellowing of the skin and eyes. When the ampulla is blocked and the juices do not flow freely, the pancreas, the liver and the stomach all start to back up.

Ms. Khan had been living in South Korea for years. Recently, her skin had started to get a jaundiced look, and she wondered if it was something in her diet catching up to her liver. The gastroenterologists at South Koreas premier hospital unfortunately diagnosed her with a periampullary mass in the duodenum, and the surgeons promptly completed a Whipple procedure – named after the surgeon who devised the elaborate surgery to remove the head of the pancreas, common bile duct and duodenum from a patient.

Her surgery was a success! The tumor was completely removed. But three nodes near the duodenum were positive. Mr. Khan wanted to ensure that the cancer didn’t come back or spread.

Experience matters. Indian oncologists see a large number of young patients with advanced GI tumors. Gallbladder and ampullary malignancies appear to affect Indians more frequently, younger and at more advanced stages.

Experience matters.

Mr. Khan reached out to Navya for a review of his wife’s case. Promptly, the Navya Expert System, Vyas matched her case with similar patients seen before. Experience matters again- not just for humans.

Confronted with a duodenal periampullary cancer, Vyas looked up data related to duodenal/intestinal malignancies and recommended fluorouracil based therapies. The structured summary was quickly compiled and sent to an Indian medical expert in London affiliated with Tata Memorial Center for review.

The expert quickly responded, correcting Vyas. Treating the tumor as periampullary rather than as dudodenal/intestinal made more sense, said the expert. The treatment recommended was a two-drug regimen recently shown to increase survival in pancreatic cancer at ASCO 2016. The periampullary arm of the trial was still recruiting, but the true experts were treating ahead of the data, as always.

The patient report reached South Korea within 13 hours of Mr. Khan reaching out to Navya. Needless to say, Mr. Khan’s family was grateful and impressed.

Vyas learned something new from the case. The experts quick review and feedback pointed Vyas to emphasize periampullary origin over intestinal origin of cancers while looking for treatment options. Vyas integrated the knowledge it already had about the ESPAC4 trial from ASCO’s conference in 2016 for pancreatic cancers in a new manner into its experience engine for ampullary tumors.

Experience matters. For patients, experience is the bedrock on which they extend their faith to a physician. For Vyas, the wealth of experience of experts and patients at Tata Memorial Center give it an enormous head start in deciphering complex cases. The opportunity to learn from every patient in the engine with expert feedback makes Vyas an enormously rich and accurate predictor of decisions. Vyas starts out with a bedrock of evidence and guidelines. And with every case it sees, it gets stronger and better at guiding patients towards the best treatments.

The experience of seeing Vyas learn is truly magical. Some days, it feels like something out of Hogwarts.

-Dr. Naresh Ramarajan

Online Expert Opinion:

Tata Trusts:

Tata Memorial Center:



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