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Importance of Pancreas and What is Pancreas Transplant

‘Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.’ All of us at some stage or the other have heard or said this statement in our lives. Irrespective of such statements being true or yet another myth waiting to be busted, the disturbingly harsh reality is that Diabetes, the scary silent killer is on a rise with its skyrocketing growth rate. Did you know: India is moving towards being the Diabetes capital of the world!

To understand diabetes, it is crucial to decode the role played by the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach and plays an important role of producing enzymes for digestion and of releasing important pancreatic hormones such as insulin directly into the bloodstream. Misfunctioning of the latter results into failure of blood glucose level regulation. This event is known as Diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the pancreas’ insulin-producing cells are destroyed by the immune system whereas Type 2 Diabetes is caused when the pancreas loses its ability to appropriately produce and release insulin.

It is thus established that pancreas is an extremely vital organ in our body and as some say, the most complex one too. Medicine has grown leaps and bounds to develop certain medications to assist people with diabetes live a life as close to a normal one. However, there are many cases wherein these medications fall short and a transplant of the pancreas is the best route forward. Most transplants are done to treat type 1 diabetes. Sometimes, it may be considered to treat type 2 diabetes cases as well. More often than not, a pancreas transplant is often done in conjunction with a kidney transplant in people whose kidneys have been damaged as a result of diabetes. Like any other transplant, pancreas transplant is considered to be the last resort solution and is typically reserved for those with serious diabetes complications.

Eligibility for Pancreas Transplant

As mentioned above, pancreas transplant is a potential cure for severe cases of type 1 diabetes. It helps restore normal insulin production and improve blood sugar control. However, it is not a default solution and should be considered when:

Normal medications and insulin injections are unable to control diabetes

  • The kidneys are severely impacted because of the dysfunctional pancreas

Apart from the above conditions, pancreas transplant is also considered during Hypoglycemia unawareness wherein severe episodes of low blood sugar level occur without warning and can’t be controlled with insulin.

Additionally, the team in-charge assesses your candidature by considering your past medical history and your willingness and commitment to undergoing the surgery and following the post-surgery care steps with utmost dedication.

Types of Pancreas Transplants

Basis the situation and requirement, one of the below transplant types is recommended:

Only pancreas transplant:

This is recommended for people with diabetes and early or no kidney disease.

Combined kidney-pancreas transplant:

Such a transplant is performed on people with diabetes who have or are at a risk of kidney damage. This is generally done to provide a pair of healthy kidney and pancreas that are unlikely to result into diabetes-related kidney damage in the future. However, a patient should take cognizance of the fact that waiting for both the organs to become available at the same time may increase time spent on the waiting list.

Pancreas-after-kidney transplant:

This is recommended for diabetic patients who have had a successful kidney transplant but have ongoing complications from diabetes. Pancreas transplant is done after a patient fully recovers from the kidney transplant surgery.

Another type of transplant is known as the ‘Pancreatic islet cell transplant’. During this procedure, insulin-producing cells/ islet cells taken from a deceased donor’s pancreas are injected into a vein that takes blood to the liver.

Healthy pancreas for such transplants are sourced from either a deceased donor, or in the form of a partial pancreas from a living donor.

How is a Pancreas Transplant performed?

Basis the type of donor and surgery required, different approaches are taken. In case of a deceased donor, pancreas and an attached section of the small intestine is retrieved. A portion of the body and tail of their pancreas is usually taken in case of a living donor.

An incision is made along the abdomen and the donor’s pancreas and/or kidney are placed inside and attached to the nearby relevant blood vessels and organs. The patient’s own pancreas is left in place for it still continues to produce important digestive juices required by the body.

Post-surgery risks

Considering the complexity of the organ and of transplant surgeries in general, post-surgery risks include:

  • Rejection of the donated pancreas

  • Failure of the donated pancreas

  • Blood clots and bleeding

  • Excessive sugar content in the blood

  • Urinary tract infections/ complications

Anti-rejection medications work by suppressing the immune system and may result into additional complications. Some of these include high cholesterol and blood pressure, bone thinning, nausea and weight gain. It is thus paramount that the patient religiously takes the prescribed medications to avoid any complications.


Fortis has one of the largest and most comprehensive organ transplant programs in India with excellent medical care and facilities for pre and post-transplant management. The Fortis team works closely with patients to determine whether or not a pancreas transplant is the most viable option for them. Right from the treatment that a patient and his loved ones receive, to the experts that help patients get their lives back on track, Fortis ensures that they become a caring and indispensable part of this life transformational journey. Even though medicine have still not achieved mastery over the human body and the cycle of life continues the way it does, it is reassuring to know that the Fortis team truly commits to making lives better and doing everything possible to turn the patient’s life around. They leave no stone unturned in keeping all up to speed by doing the right diagnosis, having detailed discussions with the patients and their families to explain the procedure in detail and then performing transplants with international standards of accuracy and success rate. With a combined experience of X years, the Fortis team has performed X pancreas transplants with an astounding success rate of X.

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About Fortis

With 28 hospitals across the nation and over 4000+ beds, Fortis Healthcare Limited is a leading integrated healthcare delivery service provider in India. For over 26 years, Fortis Hospitals have been committed to the cause of getting people back to their lives faster and stronger.

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