Do You Need a Pancreas Transplant?

Diabetes puts you at higher risk for stroke, kidney disease and nerve damage. These serious life-threatening complications can occur even if you use insulin therapy.

A pancreas transplant may halt the start or progression of these health problems. You may also be able to stop taking insulin. Our team of Henry Ford specialists can help determine if a pancreas transplant is right for you.

Diabetes and your pancreas

Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that maintains steady blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when your body cannot properly produce or use insulin. The two most common types of diabetes include:

  • Type 1 diabetes: Your pancreas makes little, if any, insulin. As a result, your blood sugar levels can become dangerously high. After a pancreas transplant, your body makes insulin and you no longer need insulin therapy.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Your body does not properly use insulin. This condition is known as insulin resistance. Over time, your pancreas stops making enough insulin, and your blood sugar rises to an unsafe level. Although less common for Type 2 diabetes, a pancreas transplant may help if you need insulin shots to control your diabetes.

Diabetes and your kidneys

Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease. Some people with advanced kidney failure require dialysis every day to cleanse their blood of waste and toxins. With a simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant, you may not need dialysis or insulin.

Screening for pancreas transplant surgery

The first step in receiving a pancreas transplant is to complete several medical tests. These tests may include:

  • Physical exam, including past medical history
  • Blood and tissue typing
  • Blood tests for HIV, hepatitis and infections
  • Urine tests
  • Chest X-rays
  • Heart tests, such as:
    • Echocardiogram (ECG)
    • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
    • Heart catheterization
  • Nerve function test
  • Lung function test
  • Abdominal ultrasound

Additional pancreas transplant requirements

You must also meet these criteria to move forward with the pancreas transplant process:

  • Complete a mental health assessment: A mental health screening helps to identify potential problems that could negatively affect your transplant surgery and recovery.
  • Abstain from substance use: You must not consume alcohol or use tobacco products or prohibited substances for at least 6 months prior to your transplant. You should avoid these substances after your transplant as well. Henry Ford offers addiction treatment and tobacco treatment services.
  • Form a support system: You will need a reliable group of caregivers, such as family members and friends, who can help during your recovery.
Take the next step

Speak with a Transplant Institute specialist.