The pancreas is an organ, located behind the lower stomach that is involved in the production of enzymes that aid in digestion and in the production of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood-sugar levels. A pancreas transplant is a surgical procedure to replace a diseased pancreas in patients with type 1 diabetes, as well as, some patients with type 2 diabetes with a healthy pancreas from a deceased donor.
A pancreas transplant improves the overall quality of life and in patients with chronic kidney failure from diabetes, when combined with a kidney transplant (simultaneous kidney/pancreas transplant) can extend a patient’s life expectancy.
Houston’s Leader in Pancreas Transplantation
As the site of the first pancreas transplant in Texas, the Transplant Center at Memorial Hermann Hospital-Texas Medical Center has extensive experience in pancreas transplantation and is Houston’s leader in pancreas transplantation. Patients listed for pancreas transplant at Memorial Hermann have an average wait time of only 7 months, one of the shortest wait times in the country.
Pancreas Transplant Team
The multidisciplinary pancreas transplant team at the Transplant Center is led by nationally renowned affiliated transplant surgeon J. Steve Bynon, MD, FACS, Chief of Abdominal Transplantation and Director and Professor, Division of Immunology and Organ Transplantation at the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. The transplant team is comprised of highly experienced transplant nephrologists, transplant surgeons, transplant nurses, transplant anesthesiologists, dietitians, pharmacists, social workers, financial counselors and transplant coordinators.
Through our partnership with the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, the Transplant Center remains at the forefront of groundbreaking research, surgical advances and innovative care for patients with diseases of the pancreas and kidney.
Pancreas Conditions That May Require Transplant
These common diseases or conditions may necessitate a pancreas or pancreas-kidney transplant.
- Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. This lack of insulin leads to elevated levels of blood sugar. Physicians typically prescribe insulin injections or insulin pump devices to help manage blood sugar levels. But for type 1 diabetes that cannot be controlled with standard treatment, pancreas transplantation is an excellent treatment option.
- Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas still produces insulin, but the body is unable to use it properly, resulting in insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is typically treated with lifestyle changes, oral medications and insulin, although type 2 diabetics with both low insulin resistance and low insulin production as well as chronic kidney failure can benefit from combined kidney/pancreas transplantation.
Pancreas Transplant Types
There are several types of pancreas transplants, the goal of which is to restore normal blood glucose levels to the body.
Pancreas Transplant Alone
This procedure is performed on patients with type 1 diabetes with early or no kidney disease.
Simultaneous Pancreas-Kidney Transplant (SPK)
This procedure is performed on patients with type 1 diabetes and some patients with type 2 diabetes who also have chronic kidney disease. Most pancreas transplants are performed simultaneously with kidney transplants.
Pancreas-After-Kidney Transplant (PAK)
This occurs when a patient with diabetes receives a kidney from a living or deceased donor then later receives a pancreas from a deceased donor, when a donor pancreas becomes available.
Pancreatic Islet Cell Transplant
In this treatment for type 1 diabetes, islets (cells) taken from the pancreas of a deceased donor are transplanted into the patient. Once transplanted, the islets begin to produce insulin, regulating the patient’s blood-sugar levels.
Auto Islet Cell Transplant
This treatment is performed in a few centers and is used in select patients with chronic pancreatitis to help with pain control.
The Organ Donation Process
Life-saving pancreas transplantation is made possible through the generous “gifts of life” by donors. While living, these individuals registered to become donors (upon their death), either when signing up for or renewing their driver’s licenses or through the DonateLifeTexas.org registry. If the deceased has not registered but is a candidate for donation, his or her next-of-kin can provide consent for donation on his or her behalf. Currently, about half of all Texas adults are registered donors, and there are over 100,000 individuals awaiting organ transplants in the U.S.
Upon a donor’s death, the donor’s organs and/or tissues are recovered by an organ procurement organization (OPO). The OPO serving the Greater Houston area is LifeGift. To learn more about the organ donation process, click here.
Pancreas Transplantation Process
Click here to read about the pancreas transplantation process, from the time a patient decides to consider pancreas (or pancreas-kidney) transplantation through recovery from transplantation surgery.
Transplant Support Group
Transplantation can sometimes seem overwhelming for patients. The Transplant Center offers a transplant support group, run by our transplant social workers. The support group meets monthly and includes patients who are waiting for a transplant as well as those who have already received a transplant. Adult family members, friends and caregivers are welcome and encouraged to come with the patient.
To learn more about our transplant support group, call (713) 704-5200.
To find out more about pancreas transplantation or to schedule an appointment with an affiliated physician at the Transplant Center, please call (713) 704-5200.
If you are a physician and would like to refer a patient to the Transplant Center, click here.
If you are from a dialysis center and would like to refer a patient, please download this form.