Pancreas Transplants in Memphis, Tennessee
The goal in the diabetes management is to provide insulin therapy in a way that mimics the natural pancreas. The closest therapy available at this time is a pancreas transplant. Several approaches to pancreatic transplantation are currently being studied, including the whole pancreas and isolated islet cells (these cells are responsible for insulin production).
When successful, a pancreas transplant cures diabetes - blood sugar levels become normal because the new pancreas produces insulin. However, as with most types of solid organ transplantation, complications may occur. The most common complications are rejection of the new organ, infection, and adverse effects from the anti-rejection medications that must be taken indefinitely after transplantation.
The key to minimizing the long-term complications of diabetes, including blindness, nerve damage, and kidney damage is good blood sugar control.
There are three types of pancreas transplants:
- Simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant (SPK)
Because most people with type 1 diabetes who meet the criteria for pancreas transplantation also have some degree of kidney disease, simultaneous transplantation of both a pancreas and a kidney is often performed. The best success rates have been achieved with this type of procedure. In its most recent available statistics, the International Pancreas Transplant Registry reported a 95 percent one-year survival rate and a 90 percent three-year survival rate for SPK procedures in the US.
- Pancreas after kidney transplant (PAK)
In this procedure, a pancreas is transplanted into a person who has already received a kidney transplant. This procedure generally has a success rate near that of SPK procedures.
- Pancreas transplant alone (PTA)
In this procedure, only the pancreas is transplanted. This type of procedure is done less often, and generally has a lower success rate than the other procedure types.
Pancreas islet cell transplantation
The islet cells in the pancreas produce insulin. Only about 1 percent to 2 percent of the cells in the pancreas are islet cells.
Islet cell transplantation is a non-invasive procedure (no surgical incision is required). Islet cells are taken from a donor pancreas and then injected into the recipient's liver through a catheter (long, thin tube). Once the islet cells have been implanted in the donor, they begin to produce and release insulin.
Attempts to disguise the islet cells in tissues that the body won't reject (for example, by surrounding the islet cells by the patient's own cells and then implanting them) are underway. In addition, researchers are exploring artificial barriers that can surround the islet cells, provide protection against rejection, and still allow insulin to enter the bloodstream.
Persons who receive an islet cell transplant must take anti-rejection medication for the rest of their lives.
Insurance and insulin pumps
Medicare has covered the cost of insulin pumps since 1999. Under recent changes to the policy, more people are eligible to receive Medicare coverage for insulin pumps. Always check with your insurance company to determine if insulin injection devices and supplies are covered under your plan.
The Future of Diabetes Care
The next few years promise to be an exciting time in diabetes care. Many treatment options for type 2 diabetes are under development and the potential for insulin therapy continues to grow and methods for insulin delivery continue to become more refined. While research continues to expand in these areas, one thing remains constant. Achieving the best blood sugar control possible remains the ultimate goal in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.