Munson Health
Pancreatic Islet Cell Transplantation

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by Shannon DW

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

A review board will determine if you will be eligible for a transplant. Once on the transplant list, one may have to wait months or years for a suitable donor.
Your doctor will order blood tests. A physical exam will be done. These tests will assess the extent and severity of diabetic complications. This includes damage to the kidneys.
You and the donor will be carefully screened by blood and serum to optimize a match. The better the match, the less chance for islet rejection.


Local or general anesthesia may be used. Local anesthesia will numb the area. You will be asleep with general anesthesia.

Description of Procedure

Pancreas transplant surgery is major surgery and requires special expertise in select medical centers. The cells are delicate and may fail even in the best of circumstances.
Before surgery, islet cells are removed from a donor pancreas. Usually, these cells are used within the next 24 hours.
An incision will be made in the abdomen. A small plastic tube will be placed through the incision and into a major blood vessel of the liver. An ultrasound will be used to locate the right position. Islets cells will be injected through the tube. The cells travel through the vein and attach to the liver. When successful, they will begin making insulin.

Immediately After Procedure

Your blood glucose may be normal immediately following transplantation.
Your immune system may attack the transferred cells. To prevent this type of attack, called rejection, you will be given medications to suppress your immune system.
Similar medications to suppress the immune system are usually needed for the rest of the person’s life to prevent rejection.

How Long Will It Take?

Generally several hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

Average Hospital Stay

4-10 days

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital
  • You will learn how to check your blood glucose on a frequent basis.
  • You and your doctor will closely control and monitor blood sugar levels with the a new insulin requirement. The dose of insulin will need to be adjusted after the transplant.
Your doctor may repeat the process several times to transfer more islet cells.
Preventing Infection
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
  • Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
  • Not allowing others to touch your incision


American College of Surgeons

American Diabetes Association



Canadian Diabetes Association

Canadian Digestive Health Foundation



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