What is a Pancreas transplant?
A pancreas transplant is surgery to implant a healthy pancreas from a donor into a person whose pancreas no longer functions well.
How does it help cure Diabetes?
Diabetes is a silent killer.
Normally, the pancreas releases insulin to help the body store and use the sugar and fat from the food we eat. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce any insulin or very little insulin. There is no definitive cure for diabetes except lifestyle modification, lifelong medications and insulin injections.
Pancreatic transplantation is the only available cure for diabetes in appropriately selected patients. Pancreas transplantation adds a significant survival benefit to diabetic patients who otherwise face a life expectancy that is one-third of normal.
There seems to be a significant survival advantage when this transplant is done preemptively, when the first signs of the end organ damage from diabetes are evident, rather than wait till organ dysfunction becomes evident.
What are the types of Pancreatic Transplants?
Severe type I diabetes is often associated with chronic kidney failure. As a result, a person who needs a pancreas transplant may also need a kidney transplant.
Pancreas transplantation is carried out in three forms:
- Simultaneous Pancreas-Kidney Transplantation: This is for a diabetic patient on or approaching dialysis.
- Pancreas after kidney transplant: This is for diabetic patients who have had a successful kidney transplant but have ongoing complications from diabetes.
- Pancreas Transplant alone: Will benefit a patient with diabetic complications in the eyes, nerves as well as loss of warning signs for low sugars.
How does one get evaluated for a Pancreas transplant?
The multidisciplinary team evaluates the patient to determine whether he/she is a good candidate for a pancreas transplant. Usually persons with severe diabetes, usually type I or juvenile-onset diabetes are considered.
If suitable, the patient is placed on a waiting list. The person’s health condition and suitability for major surgery are taken into account. Pancreas transplants are not performed on people with advanced cancer, chronic infections like TB, or very severe heart, lung or liver disease.
What happens during Pancreas Transplant Surgery?
During pancreas transplant surgery, the donated pancreas is transplanted into the recipient. The pancreas must be transplanted into the patient receiving the organ within hours after removing it from the donor. The patient’s own pancreas is not removed during a pancreas transplant. The donated pancreas is ‘added’ to the recipient.
Life following Pancreas Transplant Surgery
After pancreas transplant surgery, anti-rejection drugs are prescribed lifelong to prevent rejection. The transplant candidate also must be willing to have lifelong follow-up checks.
Outcome and survival rates for Diabetics after Pancreatic transplant
Diabetes cure rate is 80% at 10-years and the chances of a diabetic being alive at 25 years after a simultaneous kidney pancreas transplant is 70% versus 27% if the diabetic went in for a kidney transplant alone.