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What You Should Know About Pancreas Transplants

Pancreas transplants are one of the rarest types of organ transplants performed annually. Only 135 people received a life-saving pancreas transplant in 2020. In fact, pancreas transplants have become increasingly rare since 2004.

There are different reasons for this including difficulty in both the recovery and transplantation processes, other available treatments that are less invasive than a transplant and strict criteria that limits the eligibility for many donors.

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a small tubular-shaped, glandular organ that is located behind the stomach. It produces enzymes that are used for digestion. The pancreas also produces insulin which is essential for life because it regulates the use of blood sugar throughout the body.

If the pancreas stops producing insulin, this can result in a diagnosis of Type I diabetes. This is an autoimmune disease and those diagnosed with it must take insulin daily to live. Type II diabetes occurs more often in adults and is considered a chronic disease. With Type II diabetes, the pancreas is usually producing enough insulin, but for unknown reasons, the body cannot use the insulin effectively. Maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle can help in managing both types of diabetes.

Why would you need a pancreas transplant?

Most transplant candidates in need of a pancreas transplant are listed because of diabetes, pancreatic cancer, bile duct cancer or chronic kidney disease. Often, candidates who are in need of pancreas transplants are also in need of a kidney transplant. It is very common to transplant both organs at the same time, but makes it a little more challenging to find a match.

We asked two of our Advocates for Life to share their stories about their need for a kidney-pancreas transplant and how that transplant saved their lives. To hear their stories, please click the following links:

Matthew Kuchera, Advocate for Life in Colorado

Rhonda Hill, Advocate for Life in Wyoming

What You Can Do To Help

If you have questions about pancreas or kidney-pancreas transplants, always consult with your physician first. You can also contact a transplant center to learn more. And remember, anyone can sign up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. Don’t rule yourself out! Even transplant candidates and recipients can potentially become donors. Sign up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, by visiting Donate Life Colorado or Donate Life Wyoming.