COVID-19 updates, including vaccine information, for our patients and visitors Learn More


Pancreas Transplantation

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 with 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 several transplants have been 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
  • Re-transplantation

We have expertise in deceased and living donor kidney transplant procedures, including minimally invasive robot-assisted nephrectomy and paired kidney transplantation. Learn about the advantages of 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'll 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 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 involves 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.

After Surgery

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.

​Appointments and Referrals

Center For Transplantation Locations

La Jolla

Meet Our Specialists