Pancreas transplantation

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Pancreas transplantation

Pancreas transplantation is a specialized surgery in which a healthy pancreas from a brain dead donor is transplanted into a patient whose pancreas has failed to function. These recipients could be type 1 diabetic patient and certain type 2 diabetics, whose pancreas fails to produce the required insulin. Pancreas transplantation allows the recipient an opportunity to be free from insulin injections for rest of the life.

Once the pancreas is removed from the donor, it is cooled and preserved in an ice-cold preservative solution. It can be preserved only for 20 hours after it is removed from the donor. During the surgery, the donor’s duodenum is transplanted along with the pancreas. The original pancreas of the recipient is not removed during the surgery as it can still make the essential digestive enzymes required for digestion. Instead, the donor pancreas is positioned below the recipient’s pancreas and is attached to the blood vessels.

Pancreatic transplants are either performed in combination with kidney (simultaneous pancreas kidney transplant), if the recipient is having a kidney failure due to long standing diabetes or after sometime of a kidney transplant. In some cases, patients do not need a kidney transplant. In such patients, only pancreas is transplanted alone. Pancreas transplant takes about 3 hours. However, the combined pancreas and kidney transplant takes about 6 hours.

Pre-Transplant Assessment

Pancreas transplantation can cure diabetes, however, it is indicated only in patients with high-than-normal risk of heart disease and other diabetes-related complications. Prior to transplant, Dr. Sunil Shenvi & his team will carefully match the donor pancreas with the patient who’s receiving it. They will also order various tests and prepare the patient psychologically before the surgery.

Pancreas transplant may not be suitable for patients who have:

  • A history of cancer
  • HIV
  • Active hepatitis
  • Lung disease
  • Obesity
  • Vascular disease
  • Severe heart disease


The patient will be counseled not to smoke or consume alcohol which can damage the new organ.

Post pancreas transplantation, the patient will need to take several medicines for the rest of his/her life. Survival rate in the first year after transplant is more than 95% and the risks for organ rejection are about 1% each year. The good thing is almost all patients find that managing daily life is a lot easier and more satisfying after pancreas transplant.

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