A pancreas transplant is an operation to treat diabetes by replacing the need for insulin with a healthy insulin-producing pancreas from a donor who has recently died.

The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that produces both digestive juices and hormones, such as insulin, that help the body break down food and turn it into energy.

A pancreas transplant is sometimes recommended as a treatment for people with insulin-treated diabetes, such as Type 1 diabetes , who are unable to produce their own insulin.

This page covers:

Whythey'recarried out

What happens




Why pancreas transplants are carried out

A pancreas transplant allows people with type 1 diabetes to produce insulin again. It is not a routine treatment because it carries significant risks, and treatment with insulin injections is often effective.

A pancreas transplant is usually only considered if:

  • you also have severe kidney disease a pancreas transplant may be carried out at the same time as a kidney transplant in these cases
  • you have severe episodes ofdangerously low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) that occur without warning and aren'tcontrolled with insulin

If your doctor thinks you might benefit from a pancreas transplant, you'll need to have adetailed assessment to check whether you're healthy enough to have one, before being placed on awaiting list.

The donor pancreas and donor kidney, if you're having a kidney transplant at the same timeis then placed inside, and attached to nearby blood vessels and your bowel.

The new pancreas should start producing insulin straight away. Your old damaged pancreas will be left in place and will continue to produce important digestive juices after the transplant.

Most people are able to get back to their normal activities within a few months.

Your transplant team can give you advice about how long you may need to avoid certain activities during your recovery.

You'll need to have regular check-ups with your transplant team after the transplant.

You'll also need to take medications called immunosuppressants for the rest of your life. Without these medicines, your body will recognise your new pancreas as foreign and attack it this is known as rejection.


Risks of a pancreas transplant

Apancreas transplant is a complex and risky procedure.

Possible complications include:

  • the immune system recognising the transplantedpancreas as foreign and attacking it (rejection)
  • blood clots forming in the blood vessels supplying the donor pancreas (thrombosis)
  • short-lived inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) ,usually just after transplantation
  • side effects from the immunosuppressant medication, such as an increased chance of catching certain infections, developing high blood pressure , and weakened bones (osteoporosis)

Many of these problems are treatable, although sometimes it may be necessary to remove the donor pancreas.


Outlook fora pancreas transplant

The outlook for people with a pancreas transplant isusually good:

  • most people live for many years, or even decades, after a pancreas transplant97% will live at least a year afterwards, and almost 90% will live at least five years
  • for people who had a pancreas and kidney transplant together around 85% of donor pancreases are stillworking after one year, and around 75%are still working after five years
  • for people who just had a pancreas transplantaround 65% of donor pancreases are stillworking afterone year,and around 45%are still working after five years

The donor pancreas can be removed if itstops working, and it may be possible to put you back on the waiting list for another transplant.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016