UW Medicine has a long history of pancreas transplantation and has performed the greatest number of combined kidney/pancreas transplants in the Northwest. In addition, we also perform both pancreas after kidney transplants and solitary pancreas transplants. Patients are evaluated and treated by a multidisciplinary team of nephrology and surgery specialists, who are focused on diabetes-related and other conditions that threaten pancreas function. Since the pancreas transplant program started in 1990, our surgeons have performed nearly 400 pancreas transplants with exceptional results.
Benefits of a Pancreas Transplant
Patients with type 1 diabetes may qualify for a pancreas transplant as well as a kidney transplant, if indicated. A successful pancreas transplant can allow the patient to control blood sugar without needing to use insulin. Patients no longer have problems with very low blood sugars (hypoglycemia), or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) or coma from very high sugars (hyperglycemia), all of which can be life-threating. Normal blood sugars can prevent or sometimes reverse long-term complications of diabetes.
UW Medicine performs three types of pancreas transplants
Pancreas Transplant Alone (PTA)
A pancreas-only transplant is performed on patients with Type I diabetes and no kidney problems.
Simultaneous Kidney and Pancreas Transplant (SPK)
This transplant is performed on patients with Type I diabetes and End Stage Renal Disease or substantial renal impairment. It is the most commonly performed procedure and has the best pancreas transplant outcomes among all others.
Pancreas After Kidney Transplant (PAK)
Sometimes, a patient who has Type I diabetes and End Stage Renal Disease will have a living kidney donor. In this case, the kidney transplant is performed first, using the living donor's kidney. Then, the patient waits for a deceased donor pancreas to become available.
Candidates for pancreas transplant experience conditions such as:
- Severe complications of diabetes, such as syncope and seizures
- Type I diabetes with renal failure
- Type I diabetes and only partially impaired renal function
- Insulin-dependent diabetes with a successful prior kidney transplant
In such scenarios, pancreas transplant has several benefits:
- Eliminates the need for insulin therapy and the dangers of hypoglycemia
- Ends diabetes-caused restrictions to diet and exercise
- Reduces diabetic complications in the recipient's own or transplanted kidneys
- Significantly improves quality of life and may prolong survival