What is a Pancreas Transplant?

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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2018
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A pancreas transplant is a surgical procedure performed on patients that may help to cure type 1 diabetes. This procedure involves surgically placing a donor's pancreas into the patient's body. The pancreas of a type 1 diabetic manufactures little or no insulin.

Diabetics are required to monitor their diet, check their blood sugar level, and keep their weight down in order to control the disease. Despite their efforts, some diabetics are still unable to manage their diabetes. Type 1 diabetic patients who struggle to maintain their health may be candidates for a pancreas transplant.

If a doctor decides that a patient needs a new pancreas, the patient will be referred to a transplant center. The patient has the right to select his or her own transplant center. Before deciding on a particular center, the patient should research each prospective center, inquiring as to how many pancreatic transplants the center performs on an annual basis. The patient should also learn about the types of pancreatic transplants performed at the center, since patients can undergo a pancreatic-only procedure or a pancreatic-kidney transplant.


After the patient selects a transplant center, the doctors will screen the candidate to determine if he or she is healthy enough to undergo the procedure and withstand a lifetime of post-transplant medications. Doctors will also determine if the patient suffers from medical conditions that will prevent a successful transplant procedure. Finally, the transplant team will assess whether the patient is willing to follow a strict regimen of post-transplant medicines.

In order to prepare for a pancreas transplant, patients should faithfully take their prescribed medicine, regularly meet with their doctors, eat healthily and exercise, maintain a positive frame of mind, and surround themselves with supportive family and friends. They may even join a support group to help them prepare for the transplant procedure. It could take years to receive a donated pancreas, so patients should make sure the transplant team can contact them at all times.

During a pancreas transplant, the surgeon positions the donor pancreas and a small section of the donor's intestine in the transplant patient's lower abdomen. The new intestine is attached to the patient's intestine, and the new pancreas is attached to blood vessels that direct blood to the legs. The old pancreas remains in place in order to assist with digestion.

Patients who receive a kidney transplant as well as a pancreas transplant, will have the blood vessels of the kidney attached to the blood vessels of the lower abdomen. The transplanted kidney's ureter, a tube that attaches the kidney to the bladder, is connected to the patient's bladder. After being transplanted, the new pancreas begins to work immediately while the old pancreas continues to function as well.



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