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Pancreatic Transplant - When Is It Required?

Written and reviewed by
Dr.Siddharth Jain 93% (305ratings)
Liver Transplant, Surgical Gastroenterology, Fellowship in Abdominal Multi Organ Transplant Surgery, MS - General Surgery, MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
Gastroenterologist, Delhi  •  22years experience
Pancreatic Transplant - When Is It Required?

Pancreas is a small organ that is located in the lower part of the stomach. It lies just behind the abdomen. It functions by producing the insulin hormone which is responsible for regulating blood sugar level in the body and breaking down food into glucagon which is stored in the body. This glucagon is converted into glucose which is used by the body for energy and other purposes. Therefore, pancreatic transplant is done in patients with a malfunctioning pancreas.

Why is pancreatic transplant required?
Patients suffering from type I diabetes usually undergo a pancreatic transplant. Type I diabetes is characterized by the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin, thereby leading to low blood sugar level. This type of diabetes occurs due to the malfunction of pancreatic beta cells whose primary role is to produce insulin. These beta cells make up around 65 to 80 percent of the cells found in the pancreatic islets. They typically malfunction when the body's immune system begins to attack and destroy the pancreatic beta cells. Therefore, type I diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. Patients with type I diabetes require insulin injections that might cause severe reactions. People dependent on insulin are prone to the development of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic nephropathy.

People with type II diabetes generally do not need pancreatic transplant because this type of diabetes occurs due to low production of insulin or lack of insulin resistance. Here is a list of the probable reasons why pancreatic transplant is required:

  1. People who have type I diabetes but are not cured by standard treatment
  2. Severe reactions to insulin injections
  3. Low blood sugar
  4. Kidney damage
  5. Hypoglycemia unawareness

A pancreatic transplant can be of three types. They are:

  1. Pancreas transplant only- People with type I diabetes and normally functioning kidneys require only a pancreatic transplant.
  2. Pancreas and kidney transplant- Type I diabetes, in rare cases, leads to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or end-stage kidney disease where one or both the kidneys are damaged. In such cases, pancreas and kidney are transplanted simultaneously to disable the dependence on insulin injection. This type of surgery may also be required when the pancreas and the kidneys come from the same donor.
  3. Pancreas-after-kidney transplant- In some cases of type I diabetes, your doctor will recommend kidney transplant first followed by pancreatic transplant. It must be remembered that pancreatic transplant should be done by taking into consideration the side-effects caused by the anti-rejection injections administered after the procedure is performed. It may cause bone thinning, high cholesterol and high blood pressure in a patient’s body. As the anti-rejection injections work by suppressing the immune system, the body’s defense mechanism against infections and other diseases becomes ineffective to a considerable extent.

A pancreatic transplant is a serious procedure that requires a lot of deliberations and consultations with your doctor and should only be opted for when the benefits outweigh the side effects from the anti-rejection medications.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
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