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Pancreas Transplantation

Pancreas transplantation

Definition

Pancreas transplantation is a surgical procedure in which a diseased pancreas is replaced with a healthy pancreas that has been obtained from an immunologically compatible cadavear or living donor.


Purpose

The pancreas secretes insulin that regulates glucose (blood sugar) metabolism. Patients with type I diabetes have experienced partial or complete damage to the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Consequently, they are unable to generate sufficient insulin to control blood glucose levels. Long-term uncontrolled high blood glucose levels can cause damage to every system of the body, so type I patients must inject insulin to do the work of the beta cells. Pancreas transplantation allows the body to once again make and secrete its own insulin, and establishes insulin independence for these individuals.


Demographics

It is estimated that over one million people in the United States have type 1 diabetes mellitus (also called insulin-dependant diabetes or juvenile diabetes). Among these individuals, the best candidates for pancreas transplantation are typically:

  • between the ages of 20 and 40
  • those who have extreme difficulty regulating their glucose levels with insulin therapy (a condition called brittle diabetes)
  • those who have few secondary complications of diabetes
  • those who are in good cardiovascular health

A pancreas-only transplant is an uncommon procedure, with only 163 procedures occurring in the United States in 2001. More common is the combined kidney-pancreas transplant, which was performed on 885 patients the same year. An additional 305 patients received a PAK, or pancreas after kidney transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

Description

Once a donor pancreas is located and tissue typing deems it compatible, the patient is contacted and prepared for surgery. Blood tests, a chest x ray , and an electrocardiogram (ECG) are performed and an intravenous (IV) line is started for fluid and medication administration. Once the transplant procedure is ready to start, general anesthesia is administered.

The surgeon makes an incision under the ribs and locates the pancreas and duodenum. The pancreas and duodenum (part of the small intestine) are removed. The new pancreas and duodenum are then connected to the patient's duodenum, and the blood vessels are sutured together to restore blood flow to the new pancreas. The patient's original pancreas is left in place.

Replacing the duodenum allows the pancreas to drain into the gastrointestinal system. The transplant can also be done creating bladder drainage. Bladder drainage makes it easier to monitor organ rejection because pancreatic secretions can be measured in the patient's urine. Once the new pancreas is in place, the abdomen and skin are sutured closed. This surgery is often done at the same time as kidney transplant surgery .


Diagnosis/Preparation

After the patient and doctor have decided on a pancreas transplant, a complete immunological study is performed to match the patient to a donor. An extensive medical history and physical examination is performed, including radiological exams, blood and urine tests, and psychological evaluation. Once the patient is approved for transplant, he or she will be placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Organ Center waiting list. The timing of surgery depends on the availability of a donated living or cadaver organ.


Aftercare

Patients receiving a pancreas transplantation are monitored closely for organ rejection. The average hospital stay is three weeks, and it takes about six months to recover from surgery. Patients will take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives.


Risks

Diabetes and poor kidney function greatly increase the risk of complications from anesthesia during surgery. Organ rejection, excessive bleeding, and infection are other major risks associated with this surgery.

The reason simultaneous kidney-pancreas transplants and pancreas after kidney transplants are performed more frequently than pancreas only transplants is the relative risk of immunosuppressant drugs in people with diabetes. People with type I diabetes are already at risk for autoimmune problems, are more prone to infections, and have a complicated medical history that makes suppressing the immune system unadvisable.

On the other hand, diabetes is also the number one cause of chronic kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which makes this group more likely to eventually require a kidney transplant for survival. In those patients with diabetes who will receive or are already receiving immunosuppressive treatment for a life-saving kidney transplant, a pancreas transplant can return their ability to self-produce insulin.

Patients with type I diabetes considering pancreas transplantation alone must weigh the risks and benefits of the procedure and decide with their doctors whether life-long treatment with immunosuppressive drugs is preferable to life-long insulin dependence.


Normal results

In a successful transplant, the pancreas begins producing insulin, bringing the regulation of glucose back under control. Natural availability of insulin prevents the development of additional complications associated with diabetes, including kidney damage, vision loss, and nerve damage. Many patients report an improved quality of life.


Morbidity and mortality rates

In their 2002 Annual Report, the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) reported that the patient survival rate for pancreas transplant alone was 98.6% after one year and 86% after three years. Survival rates for pancreas-kidney transplant recipients were 95.1% after one year and 89.2% after three years.


Alternatives

Innovations in islet cell transplants, a procedure that involves transplanting a culture of the insulin-producing islet cells of a healthy pancreas to a patient with type I diabetes, have increased the frequency of this procedure. The Edmonton Protocol, a type of islet cell transplant developed in 1999 by Dr. James Shapiro at the University of Alberta (Canada), uses a unique immunosuppresant drug regimen that has dramatically improved success rates of the islet transplant procedure. As of early 2003, the Edmonton Protocol was still considered investigational in the United States, and a number of clinical trials were ongoing.


Resources

periodicals

norton, patrice. "pancreatic human islet cells offer alternative to pancreas transplant." family practice news. 33 (january 2003): 14.

reddy, k.s. et al. "long-term survival following simultaneous kidney-pancreas transplantation versus kidney transplantation alone in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus and renal failure." american journal of kidney disease 41 (february 2003): 46470.

organizations

american diabetes association. 1701 north beauregard street, alexandria, va 22311. (800) 342-2383. <http://www.diabetes.org>.

united network for organ sharing (unos). 700 north 4th st., richmond, va 23219. (888) 894-6361. <http://www.transplantliving.org>.

Tish Davidson, A.M. Paula Anne Ford-Martin

WHO PERFORMS THE PROCEDURE AND WHERE IS IT PERFORMED?



A pancreas transplant is performed by a transplant surgeon in one of over 200 UNOS-approved hospitals nationwide. The patient must go through an evaluation procedure at his or her hospital of choice to get on the UNOS national waiting list and the UNOS Organ Center's UNet database.

WHO PERFORMS THE PROCEDURE AND WHERE IS IT PERFORMED?



  • How many pancreas or pancreas-kidney transplants have both you and the hospital performed?
  • What are your success rates? How about those of the hospital?
  • Who will be on my transplant team?
  • Can I get on the waiting list at more than one hospital?
  • What type of immunosuppressive drugs will I be on post-transplant?
  • How long will my recovery period be?

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"Pancreas Transplantation." Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Pancreas Transplantation." Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pancreas-transplantation-0

"Pancreas Transplantation." Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pancreas-transplantation-0

Pancreas Transplantation

Pancreas Transplantation

Definition

Pancreas transplantation is a surgical procedure in which a diseased pancreas is replaced with a healthy pancreas that has been obtained immediately after death from an immunologically compatible donor.

Purpose

The pancreas secretes insulin to regulate glucose (sugar) metabolism. Failure to regulate glucose levels leads to diabetes. Over one million patients in the United States have insulin dependent (type I) diabetes mellitus. Successful pancreas transplantation allows the body to make and secrete its own insulin, and establishes insulin independence for these patients.

Pancreas transplantation is major surgery that requires suppression of the immune system to prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted pancreas. Immunosuppressive drugs have serious side effects. Because of these side effects, in 1996, 85% of pancreas transplants were performed simultaneously with kidney transplants, 10% after a kidney transplant, and only 5% were performed as a pancreas transplant alone.

The rationale for this is that patients will already be receiving immunosuppressive treatments for the kidney transplant, so they might as well receive the benefit of a pancreas transplant as well. Patients considering pancreas transplantation alone must decide with their doctors whether life-long treatment with immunosuppressive drugs is preferable to life-long insulin dependence.

The best candidates for pancreas transplantation are:

  • between the ages of 20-40
  • those who have extreme difficulty regulating their glucose levels
  • those who have few secondary complications of diabetes
  • those who are in good cardiovascular health.

Precautions

Many people with diabetes are not good candidates for a pancreas transplant. Others do not have tissue compatibility with the donor organ. People who are successfully controlling their diabetes with insulin injections are usually not considered for pancreas transplants.

National Transplant Waiting List By Organ Type (June 2000)
Organ Needed Number Waiting
Kidney 48,349
Liver 15,987
Heart 4,139
Lung 3,695
Kidney-Pancreas 2,437
Pancreas 942
Heart-Lung 212
Intestine 137

Description

Once a donor pancreas is located, the patient is prepared for surgery. Since only about 1,000 pancreas transplants are performed each year in the United States, the operation usually occurs at a hospital where surgeons have special expertise in the procedure.

The surgeon makes an incision under the ribs and locates the pancreas and duodenum. The pancreas and duodenum (part of the small intestine) are removed. The new pancreas and duodenum are then connected to the patient's blood vessels.

Replacing the duodenum allows the pancreas to drain into the gastrointestinal system. The transplant can also be done creating a bladder drainage. Bladder drainage makes it easier to monitor organ rejection. Once the new pancreas is in place, the abdomen and skin are closed. This surgery is often done at the same time as kidney transplant surgery.

Preparation

After the patient and doctor have decided on a pancreas transplant, a complete immunological study is done to match the patient to a donor. All body functions are evaluated. The timing of surgery depends on the availability of a donated organ.

Aftercare

Patients receiving a pancreas transplantation are monitored closely for organ rejection, and all vital body functions are monitored also. The average hospital stay is three weeks. It takes about six months to recover from surgery. Patients will take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives.

Risks

Diabetes and poor kidney function greatly increase the risk of complications from anesthesia during surgery. Organ rejection, excessive bleeding, and infection are other major risks associated with this surgery.

Normal results

During a nine year period from 1987 to 1996, the patient survival rate for all types of pancreas transplants (with or without associated kidney transplant) was 92% after one year and 86% after three years. In a successful transplant, the pancreas begins producing insulin, bringing the regulation of glucose back under normal body control. Natural availability of insulin prevents the development of additional damage to the kidneys and blindness associated with diabetes. Many patients report an improved quality of life.

KEY TERMS

Duodenum The section of the small intestine immediately after the stomach.

Resources

ORGANIZATIONS

American Diabetes Association. 1701 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311. (800) 342-2383. http://www.diabetes.org.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pancreas Transplantation." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Pancreas Transplantation." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pancreas-transplantation

"Pancreas Transplantation." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pancreas-transplantation