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pancreas transplant

overview

The pancreas is an organ near the stomach. Its main function is to produce insulin, which helps control blood sugar levels. If it stops working, a transplant may be needed. 

In a pancreas transplant, surgeons place a healthy pancreas from a recently deceased donor in your body. Almost all pancreas transplants are done on people with Type 1 diabetes, a disease that affects more than 2 million Americans. 

Pancreas and kidney transplants are often done simultaneously because Type 1 diabetes causes kidney failure as well as pancreas failure. Both transplants can help improve your quality of life, helping you live better, longer.

why Aurora?

When you’re referred to Aurora Health Care’s Pancreas Transplant Program, you can expect coordinated care every step of the way.

evaluation

  • Your transplant coordinator at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center will call you to discuss the transplant process and answer your questions. 
  • Your transplant clinic team will perform diagnostic tests to make sure you’re healthy enough for a transplant. We’ll also talk with you and your family, so you’ll understand how transplantation will affect your life.
  • Our selection committee will decide whether transplantation is the best option for you. If so, you’ll be registered with the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), the national computerized list that matches transplant recipients with available organs.

before your transplant

You’ll meet regularly with your transplant team so we can keep you as healthy as possible while you await transplantation. Your transplant physician and transplant nurse coordinator will monitor you closely during the waiting period. The wait for a matching pancreas can range from a few days to a few years. We know waiting for an organ transplant is difficult, so we’ll provide both emotional and medical support.

what to expect

During your transplant surgery, you’ll have anesthesia, so you won’t feel any pain. Your surgeon will make an incision in your abdomen and insert the donor organ, attaching it to other organs and blood vessels in your body. Your own pancreas will be left in place.

recovery

You’ll stay in one of our specialized intensive care units at Aurora St. Luke’s as you recover. Your transplant team will monitor you closely for signs of infection, rejection and medication side effects. You may start physical therapy, too. 

When you’re well enough, you’ll go home. We’ll work closely with you on your home care and rehabilitation, and you’ll visit our transplant clinic regularly so we can make sure you’re recovering well. You may have blood tests, radiological studies or biopsies during your visits. You’ll also get ongoing education and support. (If you live far away, you can have blood and lab work done through your primary care physician and sent to Aurora St. Luke’s.)

Your doctors will fine-tune your immunosuppressive medications as you recover. You’ll need to take them for the rest of your life to keep your body from rejecting your new pancreas. 

Within a few months, you should feel strong enough to go back to work and daily activities.

living donor transplant

Between Brothers
Why choose Aurora? Watch Joe and his brother-in-law share their story about kidney transplant at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center.

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