Treatments & Procedures


Pancreas Transplant – an Overview

Pancreas Transplant is a surgery intended to implant a healthy and functioning pancreas from a diseased donor into a recipient that has their pancreatic function. Patients with a nonfunctioning pancreas are at risk of developing the life-threatening complications that are typical of severe diabetes. All transplant surgeries are complex and carry associated risks.

When is a Pancreas Transplant Needed?

A pancreas transplant can treat uncontrolled Type 1 diabetes. This type of diabetes is long-term and severe (also known as insulin-dependent diabetes). When a patient receives a healthy pancreas from a donor, they can begin to produce insulin. It helps patients to live longer, better quality lives. It can eliminate the need for daily blood glucose monitoring, insulin injections, food restrictions and reduces the risk of complications associated with diabetes such as severe hypoglycemia, severe neuropathy, diabetes-induced retinopathy and kidney failure.

Kidney disease is a severe complication associated with Type 1 diabetes. Many patients who need a pancreas transplant also have kidney failure. Sometimes, a pancreas and kidney transplant are performed at the same time.

How Common are Pancreas Transplants?

Pancreas transplant surgeries are not very common due to the limited number of donated organs. They are complex operations and very few hospitals have the expertise to carry out such surgeries. The Pancreas Transplant Program at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi was the first in the UAE to perform a pancreas transplant and the first to perform a kidney-pancreas combined transplant.

What to Expect: Before a Pancreas Transplant

Every patient’s transplant journey will be different, depending on many factors such as their individual health and requirements. In general, ahead of pancreas transplant surgery you can expect:

Referral: You will first be referred to a specialist transplant facility by your doctor.

Transplant Evaluation: A thorough evaluation ensures you will benefit in the long term from a transplant. Evaluation includes several steps, such as urine and blood tests to ensure you are healthy enough for the surgery, a full physical examination and medical history, and imaging tests. You will also undergo immunological tests to help match you to a donor, and psychological evaluations to help you understand what a transplant involves and the associated risks.

Waiting List: If you are considered a candidate for a transplant, you will be added to a waiting list by transplant coordinators. Some patients may have to wait many months or years for a transplant to become available.

Treatment: While you wait for a transplant, your transplant team will advise what you should do to stay as healthy as possible. This will include taking any medications as prescribed, following a healthy diet and exercise plan, and reporting any health concerns to the team.

What to Expect: During a Pancreas Transplant

A pancreas transplant is a complex procedure that can take several hours to complete. The surgery usually consists of the following steps:

General anesthesia: To put you to sleep.

Incisions: Surgeons will make an incision along your abdomen.

Implanting the donor pancreas: The donor pancreas will be placed on the right side of the abdomen. It will be attached to blood vessels and the small intestine. The diseased pancreas will be left so that digestive juices are still produced.

What to Expect: After a Pancreas Transplant

The transplanted pancreas should begin producing insulin immediately if the surgery was successful.

Recovery: You will be placed in the intensive care unit (ICU) initially, so your medical team can monitor your vital signs closely and check for any signs of rejection. You will then be moved to a special transplant unit and monitored further for any signs of complications. Your stay in hospital will depend on your overall recovery but is usually between 2 and 3 weeks.

Home Care Plan: Your transplant team will work with you to create a plan of care that you must follow closely while recovering at home. This includes taking your medication correctly, following a certain diet and exercising safely. They will also educate you on how to recognize the signs of infection or organ rejection, and what you should do if this happens.

Immune System Suppression: You will be given medication to suppress your immune system which you will need to take for the rest of your life. Immunosuppressants are very important and will protect your new pancreas from being attacked by your immune system.

Life After a Pancreas Transplant

Returning to a normal life after a pancreas transplant will be different for every patient and will depend on how well your recovery is going and your overall health. A full recovery usually takes up to 6 months.

If there are no complications, pancreas transplants can allow people to live for many years or even decades. Patients can usually stop taking insulin following a pancreas transplant. For those who must continue to inject insulin, blood glucose levels are usually easier to control after a transplant.

We’re here to make managing your healthcare easier.

800 8 2223 Request an Appointment

Our Doctors

Meet all the doctors from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

View Doctors

Patient Stories

Listen to the inspiring stories from our patients.

Learn More

Insurance Partners

We partner with many insurance companies offering coverage for your care.

Explore More