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Digestive health centre

Pancreas transplant

A pancreas transplant can help a person with type 1 diabetes produce insulin again from a donor pancreas.

Severe type 1 diabetes is often associated with kidney failure, and a pancreas transplant may be carried out at the same time as a kidney transplant.

There are three kinds of pancreas transplant operations:

  • Simultaneous kidney pancreas transplant (SPK). Around 9 out of 10 transplants are done this way where the pancreas and kidneys are transplanted together from the same donor.
  • Pancreas after kidney transplant (PAK). A kidney transplant takes place first from a living or dead donor. Later, a pancreas transplant is done using an organ from a deceased donor.
  • Pancreas alone transplant (PTA). Transplanting just the pancreas may be recommended for some people with life threatening hypoglycaemic attacks and poorly controlled type 1 diabetes.

Who is a candidate for pancreas transplant?

A team of specially trained staff evaluates a person to determine whether he or she is a good candidate for a pancreas transplant. Only people with severe type 1 diabetes, are considered.

If the person is considered a suitable pancreas transplant candidate, he or she will be placed on a waiting list.

The evaluating team considers many factors in deciding whether a person should be placed on the waiting list for a transplant. The person's general health and suitability for major surgery are taken into account.

Pancreas transplants are not performed on people with certain conditions, including:

  • Non-curable cancers
  • Severe heart disease or other problems that would make the operation too risky

What happens during pancreas transplant surgery?

Once a donated pancreas becomes available, it is surgically removed from the donor and transplanted into the recipient, whose failed pancreas is not removed. The pancreas must be transplanted into the patient receiving the organ within hours after removing it from the donor. While the team of surgeons and anaesthetists remove the pancreas from the donor, additional surgical teams may be present to remove other organs, such as kidneys.

Life following pancreas transplant surgery

After pancreas transplant surgery, anti-rejection drugs are prescribed to prevent the recipient's immune system from rejecting the new organ. A person who is considering a transplant must be willing to take anti-rejection drugs for life. The transplant candidate also must be willing to have lifelong medical check-ups.


WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on July 28, 2016

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