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Islet Cell Transplant

Baylor University Medical Center
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Islet Cell Transplant

Relief for chronic pancreatitis with islet autotransplantation

 

Baylor University Medical Center, part of Baylor Scott & White Health, has the only transplant program in Texas offering total pancreatectomy followed by islet autotransplantation (TPIAT) for acute relapsing and chronic pancreatitis.

The dedicated team of specialists on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute, led by surgical director Ernest Beecherl, MD, provide evaluation, diagnosis and treatment options for patients with this debilitating disease. Since 2006, the program has performed 200 islet cell transplants for chronic pancreatitis, making it one of the busiest TPIAT programs in the world.

What are the benefits of TPIAT?

  • Alleviate or eliminate pain
  • Improved quality of life
  • Minimize the amount of insulin required (without a pancreas, the body can only produce insulin with an islet cell transplant)
  • No risk of rejection and no need for anti-rejection medication since the patient receives their own islet cells

Chronic pancreatitis can lead to permanent damage

Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic, and, in either case, it is inflammation of the pancreas. While acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and usually resolves with treatment in a few days, chronic pancreatitis does not resolve and usually gets worse over time, leading to permanent damage.

Some causes may include:

  • Alcohol
  • Heredity
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • High levels of calcium or fat in the blood
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Some medicines and other unknown factors
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Benefits of islet cell transplantation

  • Because the body accepts these islet cells as its own, there is no rejection and no need for immunosuppressive medications
  • After transplantation, patients return to an easily managed life with diabetes — or perhaps the islet cells will function so well they won’t have to take any insulin at all
    • One third of patients are insulin-free at the one-year mark
    • A third of them need to supplement their islet function with a little bit of long-acting insulin on a daily basis
    • Other third are similar to a type 2 diabetic, meaning they take long-acting insulin and check their blood sugar levels four times a day

Chronic pancreatitis can lead to debilitating, life-limiting pain. That pain routinely stopped Brooke Foit in her tracks. Today Brooke celebrates her improved health after receiving an Islet autotransplant.

Image of patient Brooke Foit

Who are potential candidates for islet cell transplant?

You may be eligible for TPIAT if you:

  • Have severe, debilitating pain from chronic pancreatitis with no relief with other medical or surgical interventions
  • Experience decrease in quality of life, including the inability to work or attend school
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine use (cigarettes/tobacco)
  • Have strong family and social support
  • Are compliant with medications/doctor appointments/instructions
Couple consulting doctor

Removing the pancreas and living without it

The entire pancreas is removed during surgery. Without a pancreas to control blood sugar, patients develop diabetes.

However, with TPAIT, the pancreas goes to a nearby lab and scientists and technicians isolate the islet cells that produce insulin. These cells are then returned to the operating room where the patient remains under anesthetic.

Slowly, the collected islet cells are infused into the patient’s liver, where they being to produce and release insulin. Patients typically stay in the hospital for 7–10 days to recover and focus on education, nutrition and activity.

During evaluation, patients meet with a surgeon, endocrinologist and transplant coordinator to review all aspects of living with diabetes. The goal of auto islet transplantation is to eliminate pain and prevent diabetes.


Watch the news story about the youngest patient to undergo pancreas removal at Baylor University Medical Center.

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Baylor University Medical Center islet cell transplant team photo

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Frequently asked questions

At Baylor Scott & White, we're here with you every step of the way during the transplant process. Find out more about what to expect.

  • Has severe, debilitating pain from chronic pancreatitis with no relief with other medical or surgical interventions
  • Experiences decrease in quality of life including the inability to work or attend school
  • Avoids alcohol and nicotine use (cigarettes/tobacco)
  • Has strong family and social support
  • Is compliant with medications/doctor appointments/instructions.

During surgery the entire pancreas is removed. Without a pancreas to control blood sugar, patients develop diabetes. However, with TPAIT, the pancreas goes to a nearby lab and scientists and technicians isolate the islet cells that produce insulin. These cells are then returned to the operating room where the patient remains under anesthetic. Slowly, the collected islet cells are infused into the patient’s liver, where they being to produce and release insulin. Patients typically stay in the hospital for 7 to 10 days to recover and focus on education, nutrition and activity.

  • Alleviate or eliminate pain
  • Improved quality of life
  • Minimize the amount of insulin required (without a pancreas, the body can only produce insulin with an islet cell transplant)
  • No risk of rejection and no need for anti-rejection medication since the patient receives their own islet cells

We have a financial coordinator who will help you and your family with financial related questions or concerns regarding your transplant coverage.

 

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