A pancreas transplant is a surgical procedure to normalize an individual's blood glucose by removing diseased pancreatic tissue and replacing it with pancreatic tissue from a donor. A pancreas transplant is not a common surgical procedure and is only utilized in cases where other methods of treatment have been ineffective, and it is a last resort. Most pancreas transplants are performed on patients who have uncontrollable type 1 diabetes, but they also may be done on those with type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
The donor pancreas tissue typically comes from an individual who is alive physically but has been declared brain-dead. The pancreatic tissue that is transplanted has to match certain criteria to ensure it is immunologically compatible with the recipient's body. Just like any other organ transplant, there is a risk the patient's body will reject the transplanted pancreatic tissue.
Why It's Done
A pancreatic transplant is a procedure performed to restore function to an individual's pancreas. In rare cases, pancreatic transplants are performed on patients who have had to have their entire pancreas and possibly other organs removed due to a malignancy. However, most individuals who are candidates for a pancreas transplant procedure have type 1 diabetes that has caused numerous complications that affect several other organs and organ systems in the body. These complications usually include kidney damage, eye problems, and nerve damage.
Individuals who have a pancreas transplant tend to have diabetes that cannot be controlled even with the most diligent attempts at medical treatment. Pancreas transplants are most common among diabetes patients who have developed atherosclerosis or heart disease as a result of their diabetes. A pancreas transplant makes it possible for a diabetes patient to be able to live without taking daily insulin injections. A transplanted pancreas also allows the patient to consume a normal diet and reduces their future risk of kidney, nerve, and cardiovascular damage.