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The Surgical Experience

Dr. Smith performing surgery
Dr. Smith performing surgery

On the day of the surgical procedure, the patient is taken to the operating room and the surgeons will remove the whole or part of the pancreas – a process which takes 3-4 hours. Once the pancreas is removed, the islet cells from the pancreas are isolated. This process occurs right in the operating room and this process takes about four hours. While the islet cells are being isolated, the surgeon is busy reconnecting the intestine back together.

Islet cells Once the islet cells are ready, they are put back into the body via tubing that leads directly into the portal vein which allows the islet cells to be ‘transplanted’ into the liver. This process takes about an hour. The patient is then brought to the recovery area and eventually to their hospital bed. All together, the entire operation takes between 7-10 hours.

Dr. Garder reviewing islet cell yield
Dr. Gardner reviewing islet cell yield

Most patients are discharged from the hospital 7-14 days after the surgery.

After Surgery

After you have been discharged from the hospital, you will continue to follow-up with your surgeon, endocrinologist and gastroenterologist at regular intervals. Initially, these appointments will be at least once per month, but will gradually lessen over time.

Because there is no pancreas, you will have to take pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) daily for the rest of your life. This requires between 3-6 pills per day so that you can digest your food adequately.

In addition, about 1/3 of patients will require insulin forever for treatment of non-brittle diabetes.