A pancreas transplant is surgery to implant a healthy pancreas from a donor into a person with diabetes.

Your pancreas is the organ responsible for producing the enzymes used for digestion and insulin, which helps regulate the use of blood sugar throughout the body.

If you have diabetes, you are not able to produce enough insulin (type 1) or cannot properly use insulin (type 2).

Pancreas transplant patients typically have type 1 diabetes, although some patients have type 2. A transplant can prevent or delay side effects related to your diabetes, and can give you a chance to maintain normal blood glucose levels without using supplemental insulin.

Pancreas Transplant: What to Expect

Once you are referred to the Abdominal Organ Transplant Program, you will be seen and evaluated by the transplant team. You will have several visits over several weeks or even months and you will need to have tests done, such as blood draws and X-rays.

If you are a good candidate for a pancreas transplant, you will be put on a waiting list. Your place on the waiting list is based on a number of factors, including your current health and the likelihood that a transplant will be successful.

The healthy pancreas will be taken from a donor who is brain dead but is still on life support. The donor pancreas must be carefully matched to you so the transplant will be successful.

Pancreas/Kidney Transplant

Pancreas transplant is rarely done alone. It is almost always done when someone with type 1 diabetes also needs a kidney transplant (most likely in end-stage kidney failure).

If both the kidney and the pancreas come from a deceased donor, then both organs will be transplanted during one surgery.

If the kidney donor is living, the pancreas transplant will take place at a time after the kidney transplant.

Some patients with difficult-to-control diabetes find that it endangers their life and may qualify for a pancreas transplant alone even if they do not have kidney failure.