Transplant - pancreas; Transplantation - pancreas
A pancreas transplant is surgery to implant a healthy pancreas from a donor into a patient with diabetes. Pancreas transplants give the patient a chance to stop taking insulin injections.
The healthy pancreas is taken from a donor who is brain dead, but is still on life support. The donor pancreas must be carefully matched to the patient who is receiving it.
A portion of the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum, is transplanted with the donor pancreas. The healthy pancreas is transported in a cooled solution that preserves the organ for up to 20 hours.
The patient's diseased pancreas is not removed during the operation. The donor pancreas is usually placed in the right lower part of the patient's abdomen. Blood vessels from the new pancreas are attached to the patient's blood vessels. The donor duodenum is attached to the patient's intestine or bladder.
The surgery for a pancreas transplant takes about 3 hours. However, the operation is usually done at the same time as a kidney transplant in diabetic patients with kidney disease. The combined operation takes about 6 hours.
The pancreas makes a substance called insulin. Insulin moves glucose, which is sugar, from the blood into the muscles, fat, and liver cells, where it can be used as fuel.
In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doens't make enough, or sometimes any, insulin. This causes glucose to build up in the blood, leading to high blood-sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can cause many complications, including:
A pancreas transplant can cure diabetes and eliminate the need for insulin shots. Because of the risks involved with surgery, however, most people with type 1 diabetes do not have a pancreas transplant soon after they are diagnosed.
Because of these risks, pancreas transplant is rarely done alone. It is almost always done when someone with type 1 diabetes also needs a kidney transplant.
Pancreas transplant surgery may NOT be done in patients who also have:
The doctor may also recommend against a pancreas transplant if the patient is not able to keep up with the many follow-up visits, tests, and medications needed to keep the transplanted organ healthy.
Lipshutz GS, Wilkinson AH. Pancreas-kidney and pancreas transplantation for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2007;36(4).
White SA, Shaw JA, Sutherland DE. Pancreas transplantation. Lancet. 2009; 373(9677):1808-1817.
Markmann FJ, Yeh H, Naji A, et al. Transplantation of abdominal organs. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008: chap 28.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885