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Transplant Services

Pancreas Transplant at MUSC Health

The MUSC Transplant Center in Charleston, SC offers some of the nation's most cutting-edge pancreatic transplant procedures.

About Our Transplant Program 

Since the early 1990s when MUSC performed South Carolina's first Simultaneous Pancreas and Kidney (SPK) transplant, hundreds of patients have benefited from our expertise in this complex procedure. MUSC also performs pancreas transplants alone (PTA) and pancreas transplants after the kidney has be transplanted (PAK) for patients who have insulin dependent diabetes with severe complications.

Our pancreas transplant outcomes are comparable to the national average, with some of the lowest mortality rates for patients on our pancreas wait list.  The average pancreas transplant waiting time is among the shortest in the nation.

Contact the MUSC Transplant Center to schedule appointments or ask questions about MUSC's pancreas transplantations.

Is a Pancreas Transplant Right for You? 

Individuals who have insulin-dependent diabetes accompanied by advanced, chronic renal failure, or who are on dialysis may be good candidates for a simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant (SPK). SPK is a transplant procedure where both a kidney and a pancreas are transplanted at the same time using organs from a deceased donor. The procedure frees patients from dialysis and insulin dependency.

Patients who are eligible for SPK typically have:

Individuals who have insulin dependent diabetes and a documented progression of secondary complications, despite intensive medical intervention may be eligible for either a pancreas transplant alone (PTA) or a pancreas transplant after a kidney transplant (PAK). Among their symptoms are:

  • Progression of secondary diabetic complications, such as:
    • Diabetic retinopathy
    • Diabetic peripheral or automatic neuropathy
    • Diabetic gastroparesis
    • Progressive atherosclerosis
  • Neuroglycopenia with unawareness
  • Recurrent diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Actual 24-hour urine collection that has creatinine clearance greater than or equal to 40 cc/minute and proteinuria of less than one gram (PAK)
  • Actual 24-hour urine collection that has creatinine clearance greater than or equal to 60 cc/minute and proteinuria of less than 1 gram (PTA)

Patients are not good candidates for pancreas transplantation if they have:

  • Malignancy within the past two years (other than skin)
  • Cardiovascular or pulmonary disease sufficiently severe to prevent surgery
  • A positive test for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Active infection
  • A body mass index of more than 30
  • Active alcohol or substance abuse (must be abstinent for six months and have successfully completed a treatment program)

It is strongly advocated for all potential pancreas transplant patients that they not smoke.

UNOS Waiting List for Pancreas Transplant 

After the evaluation, eligible patients are placed on the UNOS transplant waiting list.  Generally, a pancreas from a deceased donor becomes available within two to three years.  The MUSC Transplant Center’s wait times for an available pancreas are among the shortest in the nation.  For information about wait times and outcomes, please see the U.S. Transplant web site.

UNOS has a pre-determined process for allocating organs from deceased donors to eligible transplant candidates.  MUSC physicians do not decide who is next to receive a pancreas from the transplant waiting list.

How to Prepare for Your Transplant 

Patients and caregivers will attend an extensive education class where they will learn the necessary steps to take in planning for a transplant. These classes are held frequently at locations throughout the state and cover:

  • Evaluations
  • Review committee
  • Planning specifics
  • The actual surgery
  • Transplant clinic following surgery
  • Living with a transplant

In general, a patient must be ready to come to the MUSC Transplant Center in Charleston when he or she receives a call stating that a pancreas is available. At that time the patient will be reminded about what to bring.

What to Expect at MUSC Health 

After transplant surgery, patients will remain in the hospital until they are ready to go to a nearby hotel. Length of stay in the hospital depends on the patient’s health, how well the new pancreas is working, and the patient’s ability to care for the new pancreas.

Patients and their caregivers will receive pre- and post-transplant educational materials.  They will learn:

  • How to care for the pancreas
  • How to care for themselves after they are discharged, including monitoring of lab values
  • About their new medications and how frequently these must be taken
  • About possible complications, such as rejection and infection

Our goal at the MUSC Transplant Center is to provide the patient and family with key information about the pre-transplant evaluation and listing process, transplant surgery and post-transplant care so the patient can make an informed decision about transplant and successfully participate in their post-transplant care.

The information will be provided before wait list placement and again before transplant surgery.  Patients are asked to review and sign a Patient Acknowledgement Form, indicating they have reviewed and understand all of the key information.

To contact the MUSC pancreas transplant program, please call 843-792-4177.