How is pancreas transplant surgery performed?

When a donor organ becomes available, the patient will be called and must come to the hospital right away. Surgeons perform pancreas transplants using general anesthesia, so patients are unconscious during the procedure. The surgeon places the new pancreas and a small portion of the donor's small intestine into the lower abdomen. The donor intestine is attached to the patient's small intestine, and the donor pancreas is connected to blood vessels that supply blood to the patient's legs. The patient's own pancreas is left in place to aid digestion.

During the last six years, outcomes in pancreas transplantation have improved markedly due to advancements in immunosuppressant regimens and the increased use of enteric drainage of pancreas secretions. This method allows the pancreas to be connected to the intestine instead of the bladder, where it can cause significant inflammation and toxicity.
Most of the pancreas transplant surgeries performed at Penn Medicine are simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplants. Many type 1 diabetics suffer from kidney failure as a result of their disease, and in most cases, both organs are transplanted at the same time.

Normally, pancreas transplant surgery lasts three to six hours. The transplant surgeon makes an incision above the groin on either the right or left side. In some instances, the incision is made in the middle of the abdomen.

For people receiving a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant, the surgeon places the kidney on one side and the pancreas on the other. In a pancreas transplant after kidney transplant, the pancreas is placed on the side opposite to the functioning kidney.

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