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Before Pancreas Transplant: What to Expect

Before pancreas transplant surgery at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, you receive one-on-one attention to prepare you physically, emotionally and financially. The minute you are referred, we assign you a pancreas transplant nurse coordinator to guide you through the evaluation and waiting list process.

These presurgery steps are just one part of the transplant process. Learn more about pancreas transplant surgery and what to expect after pancreas transplant surgery

The Evaluation Process for Pancreas Transplant

To be considered for a pancreas transplant, you undergo a thorough outpatient evaluation by our pancreas transplant team. We perform tests at the Center for Advanced Medicine on the campus of Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Testing may include:

  • Blood tests to help doctors determine your blood and tissue type and to provide information about your kidney, pancreas and liver function
  • Chest X-ray to check if your lungs are healthy enough for surgery
  • Lung function tests to check your lung health, if you smoke
  • Cardiac stress tests to reveal any abnormal heart rhythms and determine how well blood flows to the heart
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) to evaluate the heart’s electrical activity, because a healthy heart helps to ensure a successful pancreas transplant
  • Angiogram, which is a special X-ray using dye and a camera to check blood flow to and from your heart
  • Abdominal imaging such as a CT scan, which uses X-rays and computers, or ultrasound, which uses sound waves, to create images of the pancreas and surrounding organs
  • Ultrasound studies of the important blood vessels in the neck and leg 

Doctors also make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date and that you have undergone regular cancer screenings. Based on the results of your overall evaluation, we determine if you are a candidate for a pancreas transplant. 

The Waiting List

Once you become a pancreas transplant candidate, we place you on a transplant waiting list through the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS assists with matching, transporting and sharing organs throughout the country. 

Expected waiting time for pancreas transplant

The typical wait time for a pancreas transplant is less than one year. The wait times for a pancreas at Barnes-Jewish Hospital times are shorter than national averages. 

One reason for our shorter transplant wait times is that we work with a local organ procurement organization (OPO), Mid-America Transplant. They are the first OPO in the country to use an in-house operating room to remove donor organs. Their innovative work increases the number of available organs and the likelihood doctors can transplant them. 

Currently, there more than 900 people in the U.S. waiting for a pancreas and more than 1,500 waiting for a kidney and pancreas. The length of time a patient spends on the waiting list depends on many factors, including:

  • Blood type
  • Tissue type
  • Height and weight 
  • Size of donated organ
  • Medical urgency
  • Time already spent on the waiting list 
  • Distance between the donor’s hospital and the potential organ recipient
  • Prior sensitizing events that make you harder to match with a donor pancreas. Sensitizing events include blood transfusions, prior transplants, and pregnancies.

Waiting for a pancreas transplant

One of our goals is to have you stay in the comfort of your home while you wait for a pancreas transplant. Our transplant team can work with your local doctors to provide care for your health conditions, including type 1 diabetes and kidney failure.

We understand that waiting for a transplant can be frustrating and discouraging. To help you cope during this time, we offer a variety of patient education and support services. These include a support group for peple like you who are waiting or who have undergone transplant, and a mentor program designed to put you in contact with someone who has been through the process and can offer personal insight into the process. Once we find a matching organ, we call you for pancreas transplant surgery.

Considering a Clinical Trial

Before surgery, one of our transplant research coordinators may talk with you about the benefits of joining a clinical trial. As part of Washington University, Barnes-Jewish Hospital doctors are actively involved in pancreas transplant research. This commitment to research and innovation allows us to provide the latest advances in transplant care for our patients. Participation in research studies is voluntary and will not determine your eligibility for transplant. 

Contact Us

For more information about pancreas transplant or to schedule a transplant evaluation, call 888.418.7835.