The pancreas is a major organ of the body, located just behind the bottom portion of the stomach. The pancreas is responsible for creating insulin, an important hormone that helps to regulate the absorption of glucose, or sugar, in the body. A damaged or diseased pancreas is unable to provide this function, often resulting in severe diabetic conditions. Because a pancreatic transplant comes with a great deal of risk and side effects, the pancreas transplant procedure is only recommended for individuals with severe complications of diabetes.
As with any transplant procedure, a donor who matches the patient's blood type, general size, and needs will be necessary. In most cases, patients are placed on a transplant center's database list. Eligibility requirements and an overall assessment of the patient's physical condition and likelihood of longevity following the transplant procedure will be addressed. In some cases, it may take months, or even up to a year or more after a patient has been placed on a transplant list to be matched with a suitable donor.
An individual diagnosed with severe complications resulting from diabetes may benefit from a pancreas organ transplant. Individuals diagnosed with such severe or life threatening complications and who may also be experiencing kidney damage or malfunction may require a kidney transplant at the same time as the pancreas transplant is performed. Individuals who have experienced insulin reactions, uncontrollable Type One diabetes and those who have been diagnosed with severe kidney damage may benefit from a pancreas transplant.
Just prior to the transplant procedure, the individual will be prepped and wheeled into the surgical suite. They'll be placed under general anesthesia, which means they'll be asleep during the operation and won't feel any discomfort or pain. The surgical team will monitor the patient's blood pressure, blood oxygen levels and heart rate throughout the procedure and a number of monitors and leads will be attached to the chest for this purpose. When the patient has been prepared, the surgical procedure will begin.
The surgeon will make an incision in the upper abdomen, just below the rib cage, to access the upper abdominal cavity. In most cases, the donor pancreas and a small portion of the donor's small intestine will replace the patient's damaged pancreas, though that patient's pancreas is usually left in place to help aid the new pancreas with digestion. The surgeon inserts the donor pancreas and portion of the upper small intestine into the cavity. The portion of the donor's intestine will be attached to either the patient's small intestine or their bladder, depending on need, and vessels serving the donor pancreas are connected to blood vessels that supply blood flow to the lower torso.
A pancreatic transplant procedure takes about 3 to 4 hours, followed by a several day stay in the intensive care unit. During this time, doctors and nursing staff will carefully monitor the patient's condition to watch for any signs of rejection or complication. The donor pancreas typically begins functioning immediately, and tests will be performed to measure such function.
Patients recovering from a pancreas transplant can expect to stay about one week in the hospital, and then undergo a 3 to 4 week recovery process, during which their condition will be carefully monitored. Transplant patients can expect to take immunosuppressive medications following a transplant in order to reduce the chances of rejection.
In the United States, the cost of the pancreas transplant exceeds $125,000. Follow-up care and anti-rejection medications may average up to $7,000 a year afterwards. However, travelers to foreign destinations such as India may save tens of thousands of dollars both on the transplant procedure and follow-up care and anti-rejection medication costs.
Surgeons who have completed general surgery requirements and training are eligible for organ transplant training and education. Accredited and certified surgeons should belong to the American Society of Transplant Surgeons in the U.S. or other similar organizations or boards in the surgeon’s country of origin. Always verify the education, training and experience of any surgeon who may perform surgery and make sure they are licensed to practice in the facility of your choice.
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