Pancreas transplant surgery or pancreas transplantation surgery is the operation of planting a healthy pancreas or part of a healthy pancreas into another patient’s body. The patients of these transplants are usually suffering from diabetes.
The pancreas is one of the vital organs in a human’s body. It plays a critical role in digestion and production of insulin, and others. Usually, when a pancreas transplant takes place, the patient's pancreas stays in the same place, and the new, donated pancreas is attached in a different location. This is done because in certain cases, the new pancreas is rejected by the body, which can be deadly if the patient’s pancreas doesn’t remain on the body.
There are two main types of pancreas donors:
● Living donors – With living donors, pancreas transplant operation can be performed. To donate a section of the pancreas, there are some necessities. This operation is also called partial pancreas transplant surgery. ● Recently deceased donors – Pancreas transplant surgery from recently deceased donors is performed by transplanting the entire organ, rather than a part of it.
Pancreas transplant surgery can be performed in 4 different ways:
● Single pancreas transplant surgery – This operation is generally performed for the patients who are suffering from type 1 diabetes, but with good functionality of the kidneys ● Simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant – This procedure is also known as SPK, SPK implies the transplant of a pancreas and kidney simultaneously from the same deceased donor● Pancreas after a kidney transplant – Also known as PAK, implies a pancreas transplant procedure after a different kidney transplant has been performed using a different donor ● Simultaneous deceased-donor pancreas and live-donor kidney transplant – This treatment technique also has the best results.
Over 90% of pancreas transplantation procedures are simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplants.
At least 4 weeks before the pancreas transplant operation, the patients should stop smoking. Also, blood thinners, herbal teas, and anti-inflammatory medications should be avoided as well. Before the operation, the patients should be in a good state of health for the procedure to have positive results. A doctor would assess the patient’s overall health state before the pancreas transplant operation.
How It Is Performed
Firstly, general anesthesia is given to the patient. After, the doctor makes an incision on the central abdomen. The new pancreas is harvested with a small portion of the small intestine. The doctor will then proceed to attach the new pancreas to the patient’s bladder or small intestine. Also, the blood vessels are linked to the new pancreas as well. The patient’s old pancreas remains as it is– this is a safety measure in case the transplant gets rejected by the body.
Finally, the incision is sewed, and bandages are applied. The procedure lasts for around 3 hours in total.
After the operation, the patient needs to stay for a couple of days in an intensive care unit, under strict medical supervision. After the surgery, the new pancreas is expected to start working instantly. Also, the patients need to stay in the hospital for around a week and close medical supervision is essential for 3-4 weeks. Once the operation is completed, immunosuppressant drugs are given to the patient.
Pancreas transplant operation has some complications such as:
Pancreas transplant surgery has some side effects such as pain, discomfort and swelling around the incision site. Also, nausea and vomiting can be experienced by some of the patients.
The success rate of the pancreas transplant is 95%, at one year after the transplant is performed.
Before And After
With the pancreas transplant operation, a patient’s life can be extended by several years. Around 85% of transplanted pancreases are functional for several years after the procedure has been performed. However, taking immunosuppressant drugs can increase the possibility of having other diseases such as infections or cancer.
– How long do I need to take immunosuppressant drugs? The patients who had pancreas transplant must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives, even if it can increase the risk of developing other medical conditions.
– Will I need to visit the clinic sometime after the surgery? Yes, the patients who had pancreas transplant has to be observed for the rest of their lives. Also, it might be needed to change the dosages of immunosuppressant drugs.
– What is the possibility of experiencing organ rejection? The prevalence of organ rejection is around 1%.