What is a pancreas transplant?
Pancreas transplant is a surgical procedure in which a pancreas from a cadaveric donor is placed in the body of a patient with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Pancreas transplantation is now an accepted treatment for insulin-dependent diabetes, with more than 5,000 transplants performed worldwide since 1966. UK Hospital has performed pancreas transplants since 1996.
Our goal is to provide you and your family with information about the entire process of pancreas transplant, including the evaluation and decision process, waiting for an organ, surgery, recovery, and living with a donated pancreas. Contact the Transplant Center for more information.
Transplant Center numbers:
Am I a candidate for pancreas transplantation?
Pancreas transplantation is only for patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. In general, patients must be medically stable enough to undergo surgery and must have other unrelated illnesses under reasonable control. Since transplant requires a lifelong commitment to taking medication and to having regular physician contact, patients also must understand and be willing to accept this responsibility.
Types of pancreas transplantations
There are three options for pancreas transplantation available at UK HealthCare:
- Simultaneous Pancreas/Kidney Transplant (SPK) is the most common type of pancreas transplant, accounting for 85 percent of all pancreas transplants. These patients have significant kidney disease (nephropathy) from diabetes and receive both a kidney and pancreas from the same cadaveric donor.
- Pancreas Transplant after Kidney (PAK) is performed in patients who have had a successful kidney transplant and remain diabetic. This type of surgery accounts for 8 percent of all pancreas transplants. In many cases, the patient has received a kidney from a living donor, then receives a pancreas from a cadaveric donor.
- Pancreas Transplant Alone (PTA) is utilized for patients with insulin-dependent diabetes who do not have kidney disease. Candidates must experience great difficulty in controlling glucose levels or experience other complications from diabetes such as nerve damage (neuropathy) or eye problems (retinopathy). This type of transplant accounts for 5 percent of all pancreas transplants.
You, the transplant surgeon and other members of the transplant team will decide whether transplant is the best option for you and, if so, which transplant option is best suited to your situation and condition.
Is there a pancreas available for me?
Patients referred to our Transplant Center undergo a complete medical assessment specific to their needs. This assessment may include:
- Laboratory tests
- Cardiac evaluation, including EKG
- Urologic screening studies
- Pulmonary function tests
- Noninvasive vascular studies
- GI workup
- Abdominal imaging
Patients are also screened for anticipated compliance, support system availability and emotional stability. Financial coverage for the transplant and aftercare is also confirmed.
The success of pancreas transplant depends largely on your condition going into the surgery. If you are in fairly good condition, your chances for a successful outcome are as high as 85 percent. Patients who are critically ill have lower chances for a good outcome.
Patients who consistently take their medication and visit their physician should continue to enjoy the benefits of transplant for a long time.
The transplant team
Roberto Gedaly, MD, is the director of the UK HealthCare Pancreas Transplantation Program and Thomas H. Waid, MD, is the medical director.
The transplant team includes nurses, social workers, dietitians, cardiologists and other health care professionals providing care for you throughout the transplant process.
Cost and payment
The cost of transplantation, both for the surgery and for the post-transplant care, can be a source of concern for potential recipients. There are a number of ways to cover the cost of transplantation, including private insurance, Medicare coverage, Medicaid, advocacy organizations and fundraising. A financial counselor is available at the UK HealthCare Transplant Center to help you determine the resources available for you. It is important that you discuss these issues prior to surgery. You can reach the transplant finance counselor by calling 859-323-9347.