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Pancreas Transplant Surgery for Diabetes

Topic Overview

Pancreas transplant surgery is a surgical treatment for people who have type 1 diabetes. The person's pancreas is not removed. The transplanted pancreas is placed in the front part of the abdomen. Insulin from the transplanted pancreas is released into the bloodstream through the lower abdominal blood vessels (veins).

When the surgery is successful, the person may no longer have symptoms of diabetes or need to treat diabetes. But the person may still develop complications from diabetes. If the person already has complications, they may continue to get worse as time goes on.

This surgery is used mainly for people who have had or plan to have a kidney transplant. The pancreas transplant can be done at the same time as or after the kidney transplant.

A person who wants to have only a pancreas transplant usually:

  • Has a history of severe metabolic problems from diabetes (such as diabetic ketoacidosis).
  • Has major problems with insulin therapy.
  • Has complications despite insulin therapy.

Pancreas transplants are done only in hospitals that handle kidney transplants and that are equipped to care for people who have kidney transplant surgery.

People who receive a transplanted pancreas must take immunosuppressive medicine to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new organ.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jennifer Hone, MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Last Revised September 26, 2012

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