Pancreas Transplant Surgery for Diabetes

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Pancreas Transplant Surgery for Diabetes

Topic Overview

Pancreas transplant surgery is a surgical treatment for people with type 1 diabetes. The person's pancreas is not removed. The transplanted pancreas is placed in the front part of the abdomen. Insulin from the transplanted pancreas is released into the bloodstream through the lower abdominal blood vessels (veins). See a picture of a pancreas transplant.

When the surgery is successful, the person may no longer have symptoms of diabetes or need to treat diabetes. But the person may still develop complications from diabetes. If the person already has complications, they may continue to get worse as time goes on.1

This surgery is used mainly for people who have had or plan to have a kidney transplant. The pancreas transplant can be done at the same time as or after the kidney transplant.

Pancreatic transplant is generally only done when a person:2

  • Has a history of severe metabolic problems from diabetes (such as diabetic ketoacidosis).
  • Has had major problems with insulin therapy.
  • Has had complications despite insulin therapy.

Pancreas transplants are done only in hospitals that handle kidney transplants and that are equipped to care for people who have kidney transplant surgery.

People who receive a transplanted pancreas must take immunosuppressive medicine to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new organ.



  1. American Diabetes Association (2006). Pancreas and islet transplantation in type 1 diabetes. Position statement. Diabetes Care, 29(4): 935.
  2. Canadian Diabetes Association (2008). Clinical practice guidelines for the prevention and management of diabetes in Canada. Available online:


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
Last Revised December 21, 2010

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