According to the Mayo Clinic, if a patient has experienced the following, they may be a candidate for a pancreas transplant:
Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes
Constant insulin reactions
Poor blood sugar on a regular basis
Severe kidney damage
To be sure, a pancreas transplant is not the first option a doctor would suggest. He would only suggest this after standard medicine has failed and the patient fits the criteria as listed above.
What exactly is a pancreas transplant? A pancreas transplant is when a healthy donor pancreas is surgically placed in a patient when theirs is no longer functioning. This surgery is done to correct the ill affect of type 1 diabetes. Usually, the pancreas transplant patient will need a kidney as well. As of result, kidney transplants are most often performed along with a pancreas transplant.
As with every medical procedure, there are risks. There are risks with the surgery itself, such as:
Failure of donated pancreas
Rejection of donated pancreas
Then there’s the side affects from the medicines that are supposed to help your body accept the new organ (anti-rejection medication).
High blood pressure
Excessive hair growth
Before accepting this procedure, a good doctor would make his patient aware of any and all risks involved. It is important to know that receiving a new pancreas and/or kidney is not like walking into Wal-Mart and ordering one. After the medical team has deemed you healthy enough to stand this kind of surgery, you promptly go on a waiting list. If you have a common blood type and a suitable donor, it may take less time for the surgery to take place. But if your blood type is rare and/or it’s hard to find a suitable donor, it will naturally take longer to find the organs needed. In the meantime, your doctor will advise you to stay healthy as possible by taking the necessary meds, continuing to follow guidelines for diet and exercise and relaxing as much as needed.
When pancreas and kidney transplants are done at the same time, 87% of people’s pancreas is still functioning after a year. The ratio drops to 72% after five years. With every other combination the rate decreases. For example, if a patient has a kidney transplant then the pancreas transplant, the functioning level after a year is 77%. After five years, the level is 57%. Lastly, if a patient has a pancreas-only transplant, the functioning level is 85% after one year and 52% after five years.
If the new pancreas fails, the patient can resume insulin treatments. Or they may even consider another transplant. The decision lies first with the patient – depending on her expectation and wishes. If she wishes to proceed with another transplant, the doctor would then take in consideration her current health level, meaning - does this patient have the ability to withstand another surgery?
Resources: Mayo Clinic
Dita Faulkner is a freelance writer who appreciates the advancement of research, the importance of women’s issues and the fair treatment of children. She regularly participates in community service in her hometown.
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