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Pancreas Failure May Lead to Transplant

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Pancreas failure typically means that the organ isn’t producing the insulin needed to regulate glucose levels in the blood. This is one of the vital functions of the pancreas; without adequate blood sugar regulation, people can develop type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the body cannot properly convert sugar into energy. Pancreas failure, and the accompanying type 1 diabetes, may be caused by an autoimmune response that involves the body’s own immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells within the pancreas. Certain genes may enhance the risk of pancreas failure, and these genes can make people more prone to having a negative autoimmune response triggered by external factors, such as an infection. The failure of the pancreas – specifically of the insulin-producing cells within it – can lead to a surplus in glucose, as well as:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness of the extremities
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Fast, deep breathing
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Vomiting or nausea

Although type 1 diabetes can be controlled with the help of proper nutrition and the addition of insulin (via injections or pumps), about one-third of the people who are diagnosed with pancreas failure and type 1 diabetes will also develop kidney disease within 15 years. The nephrons that serve as tiny filters within a kidney can be damaged by high sugar levels, leaving them scarred and possibly causing renal failure. Severe cases of pancreas failure that are accompanied by severe chronic kidney disease (CKD) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD) may lead to transplants.

In fact, many patients who have experienced pancreas failure receive a combined pancreas and kidney transplant due to the close relationship between these two organs. At Tampa General Hospital, we have performed hundreds of pancreas transplants (including pancreas alone, pancreas after kidney, and kidney / pancreas transplants). Additionally, our survival rates are comparable to or exceed the national averages, according to the latest data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR).

If you have questions about Tampa General Hospital’s Pancreas Transplant Program’s patient selection criteria and contraindications – including those for patients with pancreas failure – please contact us.

You can call toll free at 1-800-505-7769 (press 5 for the pancreas transplant program and ask for the referral coordinator), or call the referral coordinator directly at (813) 844-8686.