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Pancreas transplant

Pancreas Transplant

 One of the most important functions of the pancreas is to produce insulin, which is a vital hormone that regulates the absorption of glucose (commonly known as blood sugar) into the cells. The main problem with type 1 diabetes is the lack of insulin production in the pancreas, resulting in the increase of blood sugar levels up to dangerous life-threatening conditions.

By far the principal cause for pancreas transplantation is type 1 diabetes. Pancreas transplant defines the surgical procedure in which a healthy donor pancreas is transplanted into a patient whose pancreas has failed or no longer function properly. Pancreas transplant may have a particularly significant number of side effects and complications and that is why the procedure is only reserved for patients with serious diabetes complications.

Kidney transplant is quite often done in conjunction with pancreas transplants.

Pancreas Transplant – Causes and Risks


Pancreas transplantation is not a standard treatment, because anti-rejection medications, which are usually required for organ donations, in this case can trigger extremely serious complications.

Doctors should make and attempt with all treatments available for pancreatic diseases before recommending pancreas transplantation.

The most common causes for pancreas transplant are:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Poor blood sugar control
  • Insulin reactions
  • Severe kidney damage

Pancreas transplant is not a treatment option for Type 2 diabetes because the problem is not related to insulin production in the pancreas, but in the inability to use insulin properly.

When kidney damage is due to type 1 diabetes, pancreas transplant can be combined with kidney transplantation. These procedures aim to prevent further diabetes-related damage in the future.

Among the risks for pancreas transplant there are some that are commonly related to any type of surgery:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots

Severe complications involved in pancreas transplant:

  • Hyperglycemia (excess sugar in the blood)
  • Urinary complications
  • Failure of the donated pancreas
  • Rejection of the donated pancreas

Side effects due to anti-rejection medication are frequents such as:

  • High cholesterol
  • Bone thinning
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin sensitivity
  • Puffiness
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Swollen gums
  • Excessive hair growth


Pancreas Transplantation Procedure

The first thing to do is to choose a transplant center, which should be selected from your insurance company’s list or from your own selection.

A few things are important to consider:

  • Learn about pancreas transplant history of the clinic
  • Ask about recipient survival rates
  • Compare statistics with the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients
  • Consider post-op services like support groups, local housing, travel arrangements and referrals

After this, the transplant team will perform an assessment of the patient’s eligibility for pancreas transplant. Among the items to consider we find and overall health (can the patient tolerate life-long post-transplant medication?) and life-style habits. Before the procedure, patients have to prepare for numerous lab tests.

If kidney transplant is required, the team will decide the best way to proceed.

When the patient has been accepted, the candidate will be placed on the national waiting list. From this point until the actual pancreas transplantation, waiting time depends on when a suitable donor is available.

During the pancreas transplant, an inpatient surgical procedure done under general anesthesia, an incision is made in the center of the abdomen and the donor pancreas is placed into the lower abdomen. The next step requires the attachments of a piece of donor intestine and of the blood vessels.

The procedure usually lasts three hours or a bit more. After the pancreas transplant, patients stay in the clinic for a few days, till their condition stabilizes and medication routine is established.