Pancreas transplant services in San Antonio, Texas

Since 1995, Methodist Healthcare has performed more than 100 pancreas transplants and combination kidney-pancreas transplants, making us the most preferred program in Texas.

For more information about our pancreas transplant services, please call (210) 575-8425.

Our dedicated team of clinical research and transplant services experts provides patients access to the newest developments in transplant medications and disease management. Pancreas transplant patients are cared for by the same team that serves our kidney transplant program.

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a small organ, approximately six inches long, located in the upper abdomen and connected to the small intestine. It is an essential organ in the digestive process and has the following functions:

  • Produces enzymes necessary to digest protein, fat and carbohydrates so that they can be absorbed through the intestine
  • Produces cells that create insulin, which regulates the body's blood sugar levels

When the pancreas stops producing insulin, the patient becomes diabetic and the long-term effects of high glucose eventually affect the kidneys. One of the most common diseases which affects the pancreas is insulin-dependent diabetes, or Type 1 diabetes—a condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) to enter our cells.

Without insulin, glucose cannot get into the cells that make up our muscles and other tissues. Lack of insulin can lead to complications, such as high blood sugar and damage to blood vessels and other tissues. Eyes, nerves and kidneys are very vulnerable to this damage.

Pancreas transplant candidacy

If you have severe Type 1 diabetes, you might be a candidate for a pancreas transplant. A successful pancreas transplant can avoid the need for insulin therapy and can help to decrease diabetes-related complications.

The process begins with a referral from your physician. Our transplant specialists review your medical records and contact you and your physician to inform you of the expectations. Our team then schedules a half-day appointment for pre-transplant evaluation. Following the evaluation, our transplant team makes a recommendation about whether to proceed with the transplant process.

If you are a physician and want to refer your patient, please use our patient referral form.

Pancreas transplant waiting list

The waiting list for a pancreas transplant varies by blood type. The range is three months to two years.

Pancreas transplant surgery

A pancreas transplant alone is indicated for a patient whose kidneys have not yet been damaged by diabetes. Pancreas transplant surgery usually lasts about three hours.

A surgeon places the new pancreas into the lower abdomen, with the patient's own pancreas left in place to aid in digestion.

Following the operation, it is common to experience soreness or pain around the incision site during recovery. Recovery time in the hospital is usually about seven to 10 days, followed by close monitoring for an additional three to four weeks.

Each pancreas transplant is different, but the overall success rates of pancreas transplants are high. Average national pancreas graft survival rates:

  • 90 percent at one month
  • 85 percent at one year
  • 70 percent at five years

Pancreas transplant outreach clinics

Pancreas transplant surgery takes place at the San Antonio Abdominal Transplant Clinic inside of Methodist Hospital Specialty and Transplant.

For patients who reside outside of San Antonio, the Lubbock Transplant Outreach Clinic provides the necessary initial testing and evaluation screenings for transplant surgery. Once a patient is cleared for surgery, he or she will schedule their procedure at Methodist Hospital Specialty and Transplant or another Methodist Healthcare location.

Combination kidney-pancreas transplant

When Type 1 diabetes is the cause of kidney failure, a kidney and pancreas transplant may be considered. The kidney and pancreas transplant occur simultaneously. During a combination transplant, the patient's new kidney's blood vessels are attached to blood vessels in the lower part of the abdomen.

A combination kidney-pancreas transplant takes a few more hours than a pancreas-only transplant and requires a longer hospital stay.

Pancreas transplant recovery

Immediately after your transplant, you will have appointments every two to three months. After two years, visits become annual.