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Pancreas and Islets Transplant

What is pancreas transplant surgery?

A pancreas transplant is a surgical procedure to place a healthy pancreas from a deceased donor into a person whose pancreas no longer functions properly.

Islet transplantation is the transplantation of isolated islets from a donor pancreas into another person. It is treatment for type 1 diabetes mellitus. Once transplanted, the islets begin to produce insulin, actively regulating the level of glucose in the blood.

Why is it done?

Most pancreas transplants are done to treat Type 1 diabetes and offers a potential cure for this condition. It is typically reserved for those with serious diabetes complications, because there are significant side effects of a pancreas transplant.

In some cases, pancreas transplants may also treat type 2 diabetes. A pancreas transplant is often done in conjunction with a kidney transplant in people whose kidneys have been damaged by diabetes.

The goal of islet transplantation is to infuse enough islets to control the blood glucose level removing the need for insulin injections.

Pancreas and pancreas islet transplantation is excellent therapy for patients with severe diabetes; however, a transplant may not be suitable for everyone. 

Every potential pancreas and/or pancreas islet transplant patient must be carefully assessed. For pancreas transplants, the assessment phase starts when your specialist refers you to the Pancreas Transplant Team. For pancreas islet transplants, the referrals to the BC Pancreatic Islet Transplant Program (for either islet with no previous kidney transplant; or islet after kidney transplant) may come through either the 'Best Care' Diabetes Program at Vancouver General Hospital, from a referring endocrinologist or from the Renal Transplant program.

 
To be eligible for a pancreas or pancreas islet transplant, you must be a BC resident with a Personal Care Card Number.

Once referred, you will undergo a variety of physical and psychological tests and examinations. All patients who are evaluated for pancreas transplant are strongly encouraged to pursue all living-donor kidney transplant options. 

The routine assessment includes consultation with the members of the transplant team comprised of a transplant nephrologist, transplant surgeon, clinical coordinator, social worker, dietitian and psychologist. If required, appointments will also be arranged with specialists from other disciplines. 

Following surgery, you’ll be closely monitored for infection and rejection of your new pancreas. You’ll also be required to take various medications following your transplant as a preventative measure against common infections and rejection. These medications are covered by BC Transplant with your valid BC Care Card Number.


For more information on managing your care, visit our Medications page.

 

More information?

If you have questions about the Pancreas and/or the Pancreas Islet transplant process, please contact the Pancreas Transplant Program directly.

Resources

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