Pancreas Transplant

Types of Pancreas Transplant Offered | Who Is a Candidate? | What to Expect

Pre-Transplant Evaluation in Regional Clinics | Related Transplant Options 

Contact Us | Patient Success Stories

Joseph Scalea, MD
Director of Pancreas and Islet Cell Transplantation 

The Pancreas Transplant Program at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) successfully completes 15 to 25 pancreas transplant surgeries each year. These numbers represent a high volume of pancreas transplant surgeries, since this procedure is relatively rare.

In 2015, we performed almost 10 percent of all pancreas transplants in the U.S. We are among the top 15 centers nationally in numbers of pancreas transplants completed.

This experience makes us among the leaders for this procedure in the U.S. We have excellent outcomes for both recipients and living donors.

Additionally, we are national leaders in kidney transplant, with more than 5,600 kidney transplants completed. Our experience translates to better surgical results for our patients.

Types of Pancreas Transplant Offered at UMMC

At UMMC, we can perform pancreas transplantation on its own or at the same time as living or deceased donor kidney transplantation.

We offer 3 primary types of pancreas-only transplant:

  • Pancreas transplant alone (PTA): Transplantation of the pancreas only in patients with insulin-dependent diabetes. 
  • Pancreas after kidney (PAK): Pancreas transplantation performed after the patient recovers from successful living or deceased donor kidney transplantation
  • Pancreas re-transplantation: Patients with a prior successful pancreas transplant that may have failed over years or decades may decide to pursue re-transplantation. Our surgeons have expertise in re-transplantation, which requires more complicated technical approaches. Our patients have achieved excellent outcomes. 

Learn about the other pancreas transplant surgeries we offer, which include 2 different types of simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant.

Who Is a Candidate for Pancreas Transplant?

Pancreas transplantation can offer a long-term cure for diabetes. Patients with insulin-dependent diabetes (Type 1, or juvenile diabetes) may be candidates for pancreas transplantation as their diabetes complications get worse, even with good medical management.

In some cases, you may have received a prior kidney transplant, usually from a living donor (living donor kidney transplant alone, or LDKTA).

We will ask you to provide evidence from your medical records that your symptoms are getting worse. You can get these records from your endocrinologist.

Complications may include:

  • Diabetic neuropathy: Nerve damage from diabetes. Learn more about diabetic neuropathy.
  • Retinopathy: Eye disease caused by diabetes. Learn more about retinopathy.
  • Nephropathy: Kidney damage caused by diabetes. Learn more about nephropathy.
  • Gastroparesis: Delayed emptying of the stomach caused by blood sugar problems. Learn more about gastroparesis.
  • Autonomic neuropathy: Damage to the nerves that manage bodily functions. Learn more about autonomic neuropathy.
  • Extremely brittle diabetes: Diabetes that is very hard to control, with frequent, large blood sugar swings

Before the transplant, we will conduct a thorough evaluation, as well. Learn more about entering the transplant program.

Pancreas Transplant Surgery: What to Expect

Not every transplant center has the expertise to offer pancreatic transplant for patients who have diabetes. At UMMC, our skilled team can transplant the pancreas, kidney or both to help you get back to the things in life that matter to you.

The Pancreas Transplant Surgery Procedure

You will need to be prepared to come to the hospital right away if we call to let you know that we have found a donor pancreas for you.

The actual pancreas transplantation surgery takes anywhere from 2 to 8 hours and follows these steps:

  1. When an organ becomes available, your nurse coordinator will immediately call you to check in to the hospital. 
  2. We will do some final tests to make sure you are ready. These might include a physical exam, blood work, X-rays, an EKG or other tests to make sure you do not have an infection or other issue that could cause problems with the transplant.
  3. In the operating room, we gently put you to sleep and prepare for surgery.
  4. The surgeons make an incision in the lower part of your abdomen. Then they place the donor pancreas. We do not remove your failing pancreas.
  5. After the surgeons close the incision, you move to recovery, where we carefully monitor you as you wake up.

After Pancreas Transplant Surgery

After your transplant, you and your caregivers need to learn to protect your new pancreas, recognize signs of rejection and live a healthy lifestyle to support your new organ.

Here is what you can expect to happen after surgery:

  • Most pancreas transplant recipients go home between 4 and 14 days after surgery.
  • We will see you weekly or biweekly for the first 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. At these visits, we will do outpatient testing, including blood work, to check for possible infection, organ rejection or recurrence of viral hepatitis.
  • We will gradually transition you to less frequent appointments. One year after your transplant, we will see you 1 to 2 times per year.
  • We will refer you back to your home doctor for routine healthcare. We will coordinate with that physician as needed. 
  • Your post-transplant coordinator is always available to answer transplant-related questions. 

Learn more about patient education and support at UMMC.

Pre-Transplant Evaluation in Regional Clinics

We partner with community hospitals to bring specialized care to patients throughout the region. We do this in addition to seeing patients at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

Many patients can receive highly skilled pre-transplant care at practice locations convenient to them because of these partnerships, rather than traveling to Baltimore for all care.

We offer pre-transplant care at the following locations:

Learn More About Our Pancreas and Related Kidney Transplant Options

Contact Us

To speak with someone about our pancreas transplant services, please call 1-410-328-5408 or 1-800-492-5538.

For referring physicians: To refer a patient or get more information, please call 1-800-373-4111. A physician service representative from Consultation and Referral Services will direct your call to the appropriate physician or department.

For more details, please visit our section for referring physicians.