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Pancreas Transplant Options

The pancreas is an organ that lies below the stomach and above the intestines. One of the pancreas's main functions is to produce insulin, the hormone that regulates sugar absorption. When the pancreas does not create enough insulin, blood sugar levels can rise to unhealthy levels, causing type 1 diabetes.

Pancreas transplantation is done to help restore normal insulin production and improve blood sugar control in individuals with diabetes. Pancreas transplant also can be combined with a kidney transplant for individuals with damaged kidneys or kidney failure as a result of diabetes.

Am I a Candidate for Pancreas for Pancreas Transplant?

Pancreas transplant may be an option for patients with the following conditions:

  • Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes
  • Recurrent insulin reactions
  • Poor blood sugar control
  • Severe kidney damage

Pancreas transplant is not typically a treatment option for people with type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin, as opposed to insulin-production problems (type 1). However, transplant may be an option for those with type 2 diabetes associated with low insulin resistance and low insulin production.

Pancreas Transplant Options

UI Health provides a number pancreas transplantation options, and we specialize in minimally invasive robotic surgery for superior outcomes and faster recovery. With robotic surgery, we also are able to provide pancreas transplantation in overweight patients who may be ineligible for transplant at other centers.

Solitary Pancreas Transplant

Individuals with type 1 diabetes and without kidney damage, or with early kidney damage, are candidates for pancreas transplant without addition surgeries.

Combined Kidney-Pancreas Transplant

A combined kidney-pancreas transplant - or simultaneous kidney-pancreas (SKP) transplant - is a treatment option for patients with type 1 diabetes who also are suffering from severe kidney disease. In a combined kidney-pancreas transplant, both organs are transplanted in the same procedure. The majority of pancreas transplants are done simultaneously with a kidney transplant. The goal of a combined kidney-pancreas transplant is to restore normal insulin production and kidney function and stop the need for insulin therapy and dialysis. UI Health is the only transplant program in the world to offer robotic living donor combined kidney-pancreas transplantation.

Pancreas-After-Kidney Transplant

If there is a long wait time for donor pancreas, kidney transplantation may be recommended first if the donor organ becomes available. Pancreas transplant then will be done after the patient has recovered from kidney transplant and the donor pancreas is available.

Islet Cell Transplantation

The Islet Cell Transplantation Program at UI Health treats patients with type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, through the transplantation of donor islet cells. Islet cells are insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Patients with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin because their immune system destroyed their body's insulin-producing islet cells. At UI Health, we have the technology to isolate the islet cells from a donor, then inject them into the patient. If the donor cells take and are not rejected, the patient will no longer suffer from diabetes. The Islet Cell Transplantation Program at UI Health has performed more than 250 human islet isolations for both transplant and research to date. UI Health is a federally funded islet cell resource center and provides islet preparation for researchers around the world. For more information and participation in clinical trials, please visit the Chicago Diabetes Project.