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Pancreas Transplantation

How the Pancreas Works

The pancreas, which lies below the stomach and above the intestines, performs many functions. In addition to producing digestive juices, it also produces insulin which your body must have to be able to use sugar.

Becoming a Pancreas Transplant Candidate

To ensure the success of your treatment, the transplant team must have a complete medical, psychosocial, financial evaluation to determine that transplant is the right thing for you.

  • Your Pancreas Transplant Team
    As part of our Continuum of Care, the team responsible for the lifetime of your care will be involved with you from the very first step of the process. The team consists of surgeons, endocrinologists, social workers, nurses, dietitians and financial counselors. Each member of the team plays a valuable role in your care.
  • Waiting List
    The organ waiting list is part of a nationwide computerized network called United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). All transplant centers in the United States belong to UNOS.  UNOS is responsible for continuously updating the list, in order to provide accurate transplantation and donation information to patients and transplant programs. UNOS is a private agency that reports to the federal government and is committed to making certain patients throughout the country receive healthy organs.

The Surgery

It is very important that the transplant team has current information on you. You must notify the team if there has been a change in your address, phone number, or medical condition. If we do not have current information, the team may have trouble finding you when it is your turn to receive a transplant. Also, if your medical condition has changed, the team may need new tests to find out how this new condition might affect you after transplantation.

In a living donor transplant, the donor goes to the operating room first and has a part of the pancreas removed through a minimally invasive procedure, via Robotic Assisted Laparoscopic Surgery. This new technique avoids the large incision needed for the open procedure; only a midline incision to remove the pancreas along with four dime sized small incisions over the pancreas area are required. The pancreas is then brought to the operating room where the recipient is waiting.

Location of Your New Pancreas

Pancreas Transplant LocationDuring the transplant operation, a midline incision is typically made. The old pancreas is usually left in place and the new pancreas is put to the right. The transplanted pancreas is connected to the same blood supply from the artery that also supplies blood to the leg. It is very important for the patient to have good circulation in the legs because some of the blood supply must be shared with the transplanted pancreas. The entire operation can last between two to four hours.  In the case of a deceased donor transplant, the Gift of Hope Organ Bank team of surgeons remove the pancreas from the deceased donor and the organ is packaged on ice for transport at the appropriate medical center.



What to Expect After Pancreas Transplant Surgery

After the transplant operation, you will be taken to the transplant intensive care unit, where a team of trained transplant specialists will take care of you. You will meet physicians, nurses, pharmacists, residents, and social workers all whom specialize in transplant care.

  • Resuming Daily Activities
    Now that you have your transplant, you should resume your previous activities. You may even feel good enough to add a few new ones.  Walking is the best exercise the first six weeks after your transplant. We also recommend other guidelines to follow as you return to enjoying life's daily activities. Read more about resuming daily activities.
  • Tips for a Healthier Life after Transplantation
    After your pancreas transplant, there are plenty of things you can do to guarantee healthy living. These practices range from getting enough sleep to eating properly. Read more tips for a healthier life after transplantation.
  • Exercise - What is Best for You?
    Regular exercise may be difficult at first, but over time it will get easier and easier. Most people find that once they start exercising, they look forward to the daily activity and the benefits they receive from it. Once you become accustomed to an exercise routine, you will feel healthier, sleep better, and have more energy. Exercise does not have to be boring or the same thing every day. Consider dancing, fishing, walking, mowing the lawn or vacuuming.

Medications

  • Immunosuppression and Rejection
    Your immune system is important in protecting your body from infection and cancer. T cells from your immune system are always circulating in the blood and identifying foreign tissue such as a newly transplanted organ. Read more about immunosuppression and rejection.
  • Immunosuppressive Medications
    Immunosuppressive medications (anti-rejection medicine) will be given to stop your immune system from damaging the transplanted organ.  Read more about immunosuppressive medications.