Why Doctors Are Hesitant to Do Pancreas Transplants for Diabetes Patients

Kidney transplants restore health in those suffering from renal failure, and heart transplants save the lives of those with congestive heart failure.

So, why can’t a pancreas transplant be performed to treat those with diabetes?

The question was at the center of a recent, lengthy discussion on Reddit.

The simple answer is, when it comes to treating diabetes through transplant, it’s considerably more complicated and far less effective than other procedures.

“Your kidneys, heart, and liver are organs that can weather the storm of a transplant,” explains Dr. Jennifer Dyer, pediatric endocrinologist at Central Ohio Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes Services (COPEDS) and someone who is known as the “EndoGoddess” in the diabetes community.

A pancreas transplant, on the other hand, is a much more risky surgery.

“The pancreas is just so delicate, and generally, it needs to be transplanted with other organs like the intestines and the liver to ensure a higher rate of success,” Dyer told Healthline. “And a full pancreas transplant isn’t typically done to repair insulin production, but instead to treat severe issues within the gastrointestinal tract, like the malabsorption of dietary fat.”

Understanding the pancreas

Contrary to common understanding, the pancreas does far more than just produce insulin.

The part of the pancreas responsible for insulin production is the “endocrine” function. The rest of the pancreas’ activity is its “exocrine” function.

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