Skip to main content

UR Medicine



Is a Pancreas Transplant Right for You?

A pancreas transplant is normally offered only to people who have severe type 1 diabetes. Usually they are age 50 or less. The most frequent type of pancreas transplant is a combination kidney-pancreas transplant.

Your general health and suitability for major surgery are important considerations. For example, you can’t have a transplant if you have:

  • Cancer in another part of your body
  • Serious heart, lung, liver, kidney, blood vessel, or nerve disease that would make the operation too risky
  • An active, severe infection that can’t be completely treated or cured, such as tuberculosis
  • An inability to follow your doctor's instructions

Of course, all major surgery carries risks, and a transplant is no exception. The risks associated with surgery in general are:

  • Reactions to anesthesia
  • Problems breathing
  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Transplants carry additional problems, such as:

  • Rejection (the body considers the transplanted organ to be a “foreign substance” and uses its natural immune system to destroy it)
  • Life-long need to take medicines (called immunosuppressive drugs) that prevent rejection by suppressing the immune system, thus weakening the body's ability to fight infections
  • Finding a healthy organ
  • Cost

All of these issues are discussed in more detail later on this site. But despite these risks, a transplant may be the best treatment option for your condition. Pancreas transplants do save lives. Consider the following:

  • About 87% of the 326 people who had pancreas-only transplants in 1997 and 1998 (both type one and type two, above) survived for at least three years afterwards
  • About 89% of 1,803 patients who had a combined kidney-pancreas transplant in 1997 and 1998 survived for at least three years afterwards