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Auto Islet Surgery

What is a total pancreatectomy with auto islet cell transplantation?

A total pancreatectomy is an operation where your entire pancreas is removed. The pancreas is then processed in a machine that isolates the insulin-producing cells, known as the islets of Langerhans (islets). The isolated cells are placed in an IV bag with a solution. The solution is then infused into the liver where they settle and grow (auto islet cell transplantation).

Pancreatic Auto Islet Transplantation with Total Pancreatectomy

Animation explaining the pancreatic auto islet transplantation process with complete removal of the pancreas to treat pancreatitis

What is the function of the pancreas?

The pancreas has two functions:

  1. To produce digestive enzymes so that you can digest your food and
  2. To produce insulin so that your blood sugars are not too high.

What are the risks of the procedure?

As with any other surgery there is a risk of infection, bleeding and a very small risk of death (less than 1%). Other risks include becoming diabetic and requiring lifelong use of insulin to control blood sugars.

What is the evaluation process?

If you are covered by insurance for a total pancreatectomy with auto islet cell transplant, you will meet with several specialists, including a surgeon, a gastroenterologist, an endocrinologist and nutritionist and possibly the chronic pain psychiatrist. You will need lab work and the transplant team will meet to discuss your case and eligibility. If a you are eligible, surgery will be scheduled.

How long will I be in the hospital?

You will be in the intensive care unit for approximately 2-4 days. You will have a catheter in your bladder to drain urine. You will have many IV lines. You may have a feeding tube, and you will be on an insulin drip so that the islet cells can rest in the liver, their new home. Plan on being in the hospital for 10-14 days.

What is rehabilitation like?

When you go home from the hospital you will not be able to drive or lift anything over 10 pounds for 6-8 weeks after surgery. You will be able to go up and down steps and should be able to eat a regular diet. You may have a home care nurse come to help teach you how to use insulin if you go home needing insulin.

How often do I have to come back to the hospital after the procedure?

You will come back for visits and lab work two and four weeks after you are discharged, then three, six, nine, and 12 months post surgery. After that, you'll have one annual follow-up visit.

For more information on auto-islet transplants, contact us.

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