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Pancreas Transplant

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Pancreas transplant surgery or pancreas transplantation surgery involves planting a healthy pancreas or part of a healthy pancreas into another person, usually suffering from diabetes.

The pancreas is a vital organ of the human body. It plays a vital role in digestion and production of insulin, among others. Usually, when a pancreas transplant is performed, the patient’s own pancreas is left in 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 fatal if the patient’s own pancreas has been removed.

There are two main types of pancreas donors:

● Living donors – Pancreas transplant surgery can be performed with living donors. There are certain requirements which need to be fulfilled in order to be able to donate a part of the pancreas. This procedure is also known as partial pancreas transplant surgery.
● Recently deceased donors – Pancreas transplant surgery from recently deceased donors implies transplanting the whole organ, as opposed to just a part of it.

There are four types of pancreas transplant surgery:

● Single pancreas transplant surgery – This is usually performed on patients suffering from type 1 diabetes, but with good functionality of the kidneys
● Simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant – Also known as SPK, this procedure implies the transplant of a pancreas and kidney simultaneously from the same deceased donor
● Pancreas after 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 type of pancreas transplant also has the best outcomes.

Over 90% of pancreas transplantation procedures are simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplants.

Pancreas Transplant Candidates

Pancreas transplant surgery is recommended for patients suffering from Type 1 Diabetes, as these patients are more at risk of developing severe complications from the disease.

Am I Suitable for Pancreas Transplant?

Pancreas transplant surgery is not recommended for patients suffering from:

● Pancreatic cancer
● Morbid obesity
● Substance abuse
● Psychiatric disease

Other contraindications may still apply.

Preparing for Pancreas Transplant

Patients need to avoid smoking for at least 4 weeks before the pancreas transplant procedure. Blood thinners, herbal teas and anti inflammatory medicine need to be avoided. Patients need to be in a good state of health for the procedure to be successful. A physician will evaluate the patient’s state of health before proceeding with the pancreas transplant.

How is Pancreas Transplant Performed?

General anaesthesia is administered to the patient. The surgeon then creates an incision on the center of the patient’s 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. Blood vessels are also connected to the new pancreas. The patient’s old pancreas is left untouched – this is a security measure in case the transplant gets rejected.

The incision is then stitched and bandages are carefully applied. The procedure itself takes around 3 hours to complete.

Pancreas Transplant Summary

Anesthesia

General anesthetic

Hospital Stay

Patient is required to stay 1 week in hospital

Duration of Operation

3 hours

Minimum Stay

3 to 4 weeks

Pancreas Transplant Recovery

The patient will spend a few days in an intensive care unit, under strict medical supervision. The new pancreas should start working immediately after the pancreas transplant surgery. Patients are also required to spend a week or more in hospital and close medical supervision is required for another 3-4 weeks. Immunosuppressant drugs are administered to the patient immediately after the procedure is complete.

Pancreas Transplant Risks and Complications

Pancreas transplant surgery complications can include:

● Infection
● Bleeding
● Pancreatitis
● Thrombosis
● Transplant rejection

Pancreas Transplant Side Effects

Pancreas transplant surgery patients can expect pain, discomfort and swelling around the incision site. Nausea and vomiting are also quite common.

Pancreas Transplant Success Rates

The average pancreas transplant success rate is around 95%, at one year after the procedure is performed.

Before and After Pancreas Transplant

Pancreas transplant surgery can extend a patient’s life by several years. Around 85% of transplanted pancreases are functional for several years after the procedure has been performed. Immunosuppressant drugs can increase the chance of developing other diseases such as infections or cancer.

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Raffles Hospital Singapore

SINGAPORE, Singapore
JCI - Joint Commission International ISO 9001:2008 - International Organization for Standardization
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Pancreas Transplant FAQ

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How long will I have to take immunosuppressant drugs?

Patients are required to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives, even if it can increase the risk of developing other medical conditions.

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Will I need to visit the clinic some time after the surgery?

Yes, patients need to be monitored for the rest of their lives. Immunosuppressant drugs dosages may need to be altered.

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What is the chance of developing organ rejection?

Currently, organ rejection occurs in around 1% of patients.