UC San Diego Health’s pancreas and combined kidney-pancreas transplant program is the largest academic program in San Diego County. Our team was the first in the county to perform
kidney transplantation and simultaneous kidney-pancreas transplantation.
When is a Pancreas Transplant Performed?
A pancreas transplant may be a good option for people who have type 1 diabetes that have difficult blood sugar management and/or have kidney failure and need a kidney transplant.
The pancreas is responsible for moving glucose (sugar) from the blood into the fat, liver cells and muscles. Poorly controlled diabetes can result in the buildup of glucose in the blood, leading to high blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar can result in complications including blindness, heart disease, nerve damage and stroke. It can also cause kidney failure, which is why pancreas transplantation is usually done in combination with kidney transplantation.
A pancreas transplant may be indicated if you:
- Have kidney failure and are considering listing for a kidney transplant
- Have had multiple visits to the ER (for hypo- or hyperglycemia)
- Need a caregiver to be constantly present in case of an emergency
Pancreas transplantation may
NOT be recommended in people who are obese or have:
- A history of cancer
- Lung disease
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- An active infection (e.g., hepatitis)
- Blood vessel disease
Benefits of Simultaneous Pancreas and Kidney Transplantation
When a person with type 1 diabetes has developed chronic kidney disease — reaching the point of dialysis
— he/she may be a candidate for a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant.
The advantage of this type of dual-organ transplant is that it involves one surgical procedure and uses a single donor, reducing the risk of rejection. In most cases, a kidney-pancreas transplant is performed using organs from a deceased donor, but there have been several transplants performed using a living donor kidney and a deceased donor pancreas.
Kidney-Pancreas Transplantation For People With Type 2 Diabetes
Our transplant program is one of few in the nation that offers combined transplantation to select patients with type 2 diabetes and kidney failure. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity and insulin resistance, and a new pancreas does not make enough insulin to overcome these factors. However, select patients with type 2 diabetes who are not obese, have low insulin requirements, and have kidney failure may benefit from a combined transplant.
Types of Pancreas Transplantation
Our team specializes in:
- Simultaneous kidney-pancreas (SKP)
- Pancreas after kidney (PAK)
- Pancreas alone transplantation
We have expertise in deceased and living donor kidney transplant procedures, including minimally invasive robot-assisted nephrectomy and paired kidney transplantation.
Learn more about our kidney transplant program.
Getting on the National Waiting List
In order to start the process, you must first be evaluated by our transplant team. If it is determined that a pancreas or kidney-pancreas transplant is a good treatment option for you
— we will then help you get placed on the national transplant waiting list.
Donors need to have a compatible blood type with the recipient; gender, age and race does not need to match.
The average wait time for a pancreas according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is about 3.5 years, while a combined kidney and pancreas is about 3 years.
Pancreas Transplant Surgery
A pancreas-only transplantation procedure takes about three hours. The recipient's own pancreas is left in place and the donor pancreas is transplanted into the abdomen. Our team offers advanced surgical techniques, including connecting the transplanted pancreas into the recipient's small intestine. This method is less prone to complications than the earlier procedure that involved attaching the pancreas to the bladder.
Combined Kidney-Pancreas Transplant Surgery
A combined kidney-pancreas transplant procedure takes approximately five to seven hours to complete. The new kidney is attached to the vessels that take blood to the leg. In most cases, your own kidneys and ureter are not disturbed.
Transplantation is major surgery
— while it dramatically improves quality of life for most people, it does involve some risk. Immediately following the procedure, you will be very carefully monitored for bleeding, leakage or blockage of urine, poor function of pancreas and/or kidney, infection, and organ rejection.
During your recovery, which may take one to two weeks, you will be provided training on transplant medications. In order to prevent rejection and infection, you will need to take several medicines for the rest of your life.
For the first six weeks following surgery, you will be expected to attend the post-operative follow-up clinic with the transplant team twice a week.