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Pancreas Transplant Surgery

Choosing a medical center for pancreas transplant surgery is an important decision. You want to feel confident you’re receiving the best possible care. At the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, our surgeons perform more pancreas transplants than any other center in Missouri. Since our program began, they have completed nearly 200 of these procedures. 

The extensive expertise of our surgeons allows us to provide three types of pancreas transplant:

  • Pancreas-only transplant
  • Kidney-pancreas transplant
  • Pancreas-after-kidney transplant

Pancreas Transplant Surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital: Our Approach 

Once you are on the waiting list for a pancreas transplant, our team of specialists stays in frequent contact with you. Our education resources help you prepare for transplant surgery and recovery. During this period, we may call you at any time to tell you an organ is available and that you need to come to the Transplant Center for surgery. We are also available to you by phone when you have questions or concerns. You can call our office to speak to your coordinator. 

It’s important to transplant the pancreas as quickly as possible, so we typically suggest that you stay within 2 1/2 hours of the hospital. Once you arrive, we admit you to the transplant floor. 

Learn more about the pancreas transplant process.

Pancreas-Only Transplant Surgery: What to Expect

Surgery for a pancreas-only transplant typically takes about 3 hours. Our expert transplant anesthesiologists ensure you are unconscious and stable throughout surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon:

  1. Makes an incision in the center of the lower abdomen
  2. Places the donor pancreas, which is attached to a small section of the donor’s small intestine, in the abdomen
  3. Attaches the donor pancreas blood vessels to arteries and veins that circulate blood throughout the body
  4. Attaches the section of donor intestine to the patient’s small intestine so enzymes from the pancreas can drain into it, aiding digestion
  5. Leaves the patient’s original pancreas in the abdomen so it can still produce digestive enzymes
  6. Closes the incision with sutures or staples

The surgeon also places a plastic tube – called a nasogastric tube – through the nose and throat and into the stomach during transplant surgery. This tube prevents pressure from building up in the stomach, protecting the area where the pancreas is attached to the small intestine. The tube remains in place for three to five days after transplant surgery. You can expect to stay in the hospital for a week to 10 days. 

Learn more about what to expect after pancreas transplant surgery.

Kidney-Pancreas Transplant Surgery: What to Expect

Surgery for a kidney-pancreas transplant, for people with type 1 diabetes and kidney failure, takes about 6 to 8 hours. In addition to the steps above for pancreas surgery, the surgeon: 

  1. Places the kidney in the abdomen through the same incision made for the pancreas
  2. Attaches blood vessels from the new kidney to arteries and veins that circulate blood throughout the body
  3. Connects the donor kidney’s ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidney, to the patient’s bladder
  4. Places a stent, or tube, in the ureter to keep it open and help it heal (which we remove several weeks later during an office visit)
  5. Leaves the patient’s original kidneys in the abdomen unless they are causing health problems such as high blood pressure or infection
  6. Closes the incision with sutures or staples

If there are no complications, you can expect a hospital stay of one to two weeks. During this time, the transplant team monitors your healthy closely. In the first few weeks after you leave the hospital, you come to our outpatient clinic for frequent check-ups. 

Learn more about kidney-pancreas transplant.

Pancreas-After-Kidney Transplant Surgery

If you need a new pancreas and kidney, we offer the option of having two surgeries – a kidney transplant first, then a pancreas transplant at a later time. 

After you have recovered from your kidney transplant, our doctors assess how well you are managing your type 1 diabetes. Our transplant team can then decide whether to place you on the waiting list for a pancreas transplant.

Contact Us

For more information about pancreas transplant or to schedule a transplant evaluation, call 855.925.0631.