Metabolic Health
Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Can A Pancreas Transplant Cure Diabetes?

A pancreatic transplant is a surgical procedure where a healthy pancreas from a donor is implanted into a person with diabetes. With a pancreas transplant, the patient may no longer need insulin shots and can lead a better and healthier life. Can a pancreas transplant cure diabetes? Yes, it is the only way to cure diabetes in order for a person to live a healthier life. 

What is a Pancreas Transplant? 

The pancreas transplant has evolved into a crucial therapy for persons with type 1 diabetes, although often being carried out as a last option. People with type 2 diabetes who need insulin treatment may also have pancreas transplants. This is considerably less typical, however. 

The goal of a transplant is to get the body's blood sugar levels back to normal. The newly implanted pancreas can make insulin to control blood sugar levels. When the current pancreas of a transplant candidate is no longer capable of carrying out this role adequately, a transplant is the only way remaining to cure diabetes. 

People with diabetes are the most common recipients of pancreas transplants. Usually, it won't be utilized to treat patients with other illnesses. Certain malignancies are seldom treated in this way. Pancreas transplants may take many different forms. Some individuals may just need a pancreatic transplant (PTA). A donor pancreas and kidney may be given to someone who has diabetic nephropathy, or damage to the kidneys as a result of diabetes. Simultaneous Pancreas-Kidney (SPK) transplant is the name of this operation. Pancreas after kidney (PAK) and kidney after pancreas (KAP) transplants are comparable operations.

Why Is A Pancreas Transplant Done?

A pancreas transplant is done when the pancreas of a person with diabetes becomes non functional. A pancreas transplant cures diabetes and it is sometimes the only solution available when medicines and therapies become ineffective to a person. It is done to give the person with diabetes another shot at leading a healthy life without any diabetic problems. 

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Are There Any Risks Associated With A Pancreas Transplant?

There are risks associated with every surgical procedure in medicine. Although there are risks associated, this is a low risk surgery with a  high success rate in most cases. A pancreas transplant, like any other organ transplant, is subject to rejection. It also increases the chance of pancreatic failure. Because of advances in surgical and immunosuppressive pharmaceutical treatment, the risk of this surgery is quite low. There is also a danger of mortality with any procedure. Doctors must balance the long-term advantages and hazards of transplantation with the problems and risk of mortality associated with diabetes. The surgery itself is fraught with dangers like bleeding, blood clots, and infection. There is also an increased risk of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) developing during and/or immediately after the transplant.

The medications used after the transplant might potentially have major negative effects. Many of these medications must be taken on a long-term basis by transplant patients to avoid rejection. These medications' side effects include:

  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Skeletal thinning (osteoporosis)
  • Male or female hair loss or excessive hair growth
  • Gaining weight

How Does A Pancreas Transplant Cure Diabetes?

A pancreas transplant is a surgical procedure used to treat insulin-dependent diabetes. It transplants a healthy insulin-producing pancreas from a recently deceased donor to a diabetic. This implies they don't need to inject insulin since they can generate it themselves. A pancreas transplant restores insulin production in persons with type 1 diabetes (insulin-treated diabetes). It is not a standard treatment since it has dangers, and insulin injection therapy is typically beneficial. A pancreas transplant is often considered only if:

  • You also have severe renal disease - in some circumstances, a pancreas transplant may be performed concurrently with a kidney transplant 
  • You have severe bouts of dangerously low blood sugar levels that occur without warning and are not managed with insulin

If your doctor believes you may benefit from a pancreas transplant, you'll need to undergo a thorough evaluation to see if you're healthy enough for one before being put on a waiting list.

Who is eligible for pancreas transplant?

Unfortunately, not everyone who believes they might benefit from a pancreas transplant will be eligible. This is because the procedure puts a significant burden on the body, and the dangers may exceed the possible advantages. You may be deemed unfit for a pancreatic transplant, for example, if you:

  • Suffer from cardiovascular illnesses
  • Have suffered a recent heart attack or have incurable cancer
  • Have a serious mental health or behavioral condition that makes it unlikely that you'd be able to correctly take the medication required after a pancreas transplant 
  • Are generally in poor health and are unlikely to withstand the strain of surgery and the treatment that follows 
  • Are extremely overweight drink heavily or abuse drugs

Although age is not a consideration in assessing whether a pancreas transplant is appropriate, the surgery is seldom done in older persons because they often have additional health issues that make a transplant too dangerous.

What Happens After The Transplant?

Recipients of organ transplants spend the first days in the intensive care unit (ICU) to allow for careful monitoring of any problems. After that, individuals often go to a hospital's transplant recovery facility for more treatment. A pancreatic transplant necessitates the use of many drugs. Since a recipient will need to take a lot of these medications every day to avoid rejection, their pharmacological treatment will need close observation.

After a pancreas transplant, you'll schedule routine follow-up visits to check on your development. These will first be relatively regular, but may later only be required occasionally. You will undergo testing during these visits to see how well your pancreas and medications are functioning as well as to look for any issues after a pancreatic transplant. It takes a few months to completely resume normal life after this surgery.

Bottomline

A pancreatic transplant is a surgical operation in which a new pancreas is placed into a diabetic patient. With a transplant, the patient may no longer need insulin injections and will be able to live a healthy life. Pancreas transplants are often performed as a last resort for people with type 1 diabetes. Some persons with type 2 diabetes are advised to have a pancreas transplant. A pancreas transplant, like any other organ transplant, has the risk of rejection.

After the transplant, there is also an increased risk of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). In those with type 1 diabetes, a pancreas transplant restores insulin production (insulin-treated diabetes). It is not a routine treatment because of the risks, and insulin injection therapy is usually helpful. Not everyone who feels they might benefit from a pancreas transplant will be accepted. Organ transplant recipients spend the first few days in the intensive care unit (ICU) to allow for close monitoring of potential complications. After a pancreas transplant, it takes many months to return to regular life. Pancreas transplants are now safe and effective, with 1-year survival rates of more than 95%.

FAQs

Why can't a diabetic get a pancreas transplant?

A person with diabetes can get a pancreatic transplant in cases of type 1 diabetes. However, in cases of type 2 diabetes, people often don't have the option of a pancreas transplant as a kind of therapy. That's because type 2 diabetes doesn't result from a problem with the pancreas producing insulin; rather, it develops when the body grows resistant to insulin or is unable to utilize it efficiently.

Can a diabetic get a new pancreas?

Yes, a person with type 1 diabetes can get new pancreas via a transplant. It is the only way to cure diabetes. However, people with type 2 diabetes are not recommended to get a transplant. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes vary in nature and hence the differentiation. In rare cases of type 2 diabetes, some people are recommended to get a pancreatic transplant.

Is a pancreas transplant safe?

A pancreas transplant entails the risk of rejection, just as any other organ transplant does. Additionally, the pancreas itself might fail as a result. Thanks to improvements in surgical and immunosuppressant drug treatment, the risk of this pancreas transplant surgery is rather low.

How to protect my pancreas from diabetes?

Since your pancreas is vital for insulin management, you should see a doctor about the relationship. You may also make lifestyle adjustments to minimize your chances of developing diabetes or pancreatitis, such as:

  • maintain a nutritious, well-balanced diet.
  • consume less simple carbs.
  • reduce your alcohol consumption if you drink.
  • Regular exercise is essential.
  • consult a doctor about the best methods for maintaining a healthy weight.
  • If you have diabetes, stick to your doctor's treatment regimen.

What is the success rate of a pancreas transplant?

With the technological advancements in surgery and medicine, pancreas transplants are now safe and successful. With patient survival rates at 1 year of >95% and 5 years of >88%; graft survival rates at 1 year of >85% and 5 years of >60%.

References

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/pancreas-transplants

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