How you prepare
Choosing a transplant center
If your doctor recommends a pancreas transplant, you'll be referred to a transplant center. You're also free to select a transplant center on your own or choose a center from your insurance company's list of preferred providers.
When you consider transplant centers, you may want to:
- Learn about the number and type of transplants the center performs each year
- Ask about the transplant center's organ donor and recipient survival rates
- Compare transplant center statistics through the database maintained by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients
- Consider other services provided by the transplant center, such as support groups, travel arrangements, local housing for your recovery period and referrals to other resources
After you've selected a transplant center, you'll need an evaluation to determine whether you meet the center's eligibility requirements.
When the transplant team assesses your eligibility, they'll consider the following:
- Are you healthy enough to have surgery and tolerate lifelong post-transplant medications?
- Do you have any medical conditions that would hinder the success of the transplant?
- Are you willing and able to take medications and follow the recommendations of the transplant team?
If you need a kidney transplant, too, the transplant team will determine whether it's better for you to have the pancreas and kidney transplants during the same surgery, or to have the kidney transplant first, followed by the pancreas transplant later. The option that's right for you depends on the severity of your kidney damage, the availability of donors and your preference.
Once you've been accepted as a candidate for a pancreas transplant, your name will be placed on a national list of people awaiting a transplant. The waiting time depends on your blood group and how long it takes for a suitable donor — one whose blood and tissue types match yours — to become available.
The average wait for a pancreas transplant is about 23 months. The average wait for a simultaneous kidney-pancreas transplant is about 13 months.
Whether you're waiting for a donated pancreas to become available or your transplant surgery is already scheduled, it's important to stay as healthy as possible to increase your chances of a successful transplant.
- Take your medications as prescribed.
- Follow your diet and exercise guidelines, and maintain a healthy weight.
- If you smoke, make a plan to quit. Talk to your doctor if you need help quitting.
- Keep all appointments with your health care team.
- Stay involved in healthy activities, including those that benefit your emotional health, such as relaxing and spending time with family and friends.
If you're waiting for a donated pancreas, make sure the transplant team knows how to reach you at all times.
Once a donor pancreas becomes available, it must be transplanted into a recipient within 18 to 24 hours. You should keep a packed hospital bag handy and make arrangements for transportation to the transplant center in advance.