Pancreas Transplant Program: Short Waitlists, Excellent Outcomes
The Pancreas Transplant program at UW Health is a comprehensive, full-service program staffed with expert doctors who treat even the most complicated cases. UW Health has one of the longest running programs in the country. Doctors have performed more than 1,200 transplants since 1982.
"We draw on our wealth of experience to achieve excellent outcomes with our patients," says Jon S. Odorico, MD, UW Health transplant surgeon and Director of the Pancreas Transplant Program.
Most of the patients needing pancreas transplants are those with type I diabetes or other types of insulin deficient diabetes. But the physicians at UW Health also perform transplants on more rare cases. These could include patients with chronic pancreatitis due to alcohol ingestion or congenital diseases, or those who had their pancreas removed due to traumatic injury.
"Our willingness to tackle unusual patients is one of the aspects that set our program apart from others," says Dr. Odorico.
The surgeons in the Pancreas Transplant program offer diabetics a variety of transplant options, including:
- Diabetes and kidney disease
- Pancreas transplant following kidney transplant
- Combined kidney/pancreas transplant
- Islet transplant after prior kidney transplant
- Brittle diabetes without kidney disease
- Pancreas transplant
- Islet transplants in place of a pancreas transplant
Some diabetics are never able to achieve full control over their disease early in life, and as the years progress their health becomes poorer and poorer. For these patients, early referral to the UW Health Pancreas Transplant program - even before they go on dialysis - can be a lifesaver.
"The only way to achieve perfect blood sugar control in patients with diabetes is to have a pancreas or islet transplant," Odorico says. "That may be the best option for some diabetics, whose symptoms could be improved or even reversed after a transplant."
Short Waitlist Times
When a patient does need a transplant, UW Health is the best choice. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the median time to pancreas transplant for waitlist patients at UW Health is 3.6 months, compared with 9.1 months regionally. (The region includes parts of Chicago, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.) The median time to kidney/pancreas transplant for waitlist patients at UW Health is 3.7 months, compared with 12.6 months regionally.
"It is quite a dramatic advantage to get on the waitlist here because of the quick time to transplant," says Dr. Odorico. "It greatly benefits a patient to receive a transplant quickly - in the end they have a better survival rate. There are a couple of reasons for the significantly shorter waiting times in our area. First, Wisconsin has one of the highest donation rates in the country, and our ratio of donors to recipients is much higher than other states. Second, because UW Health is in a rural area, there are fewer patients on the waiting list than in urban areas."
Some studies suggest that listing at more than one transplant center (multiple listing) can shorten the waiting time of transplant patients by several months. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) allows for multiple listings. Patients who wish to be listed at more than one center typically list within two separate allocation areas. A map of these areas, which are assigned by the Federal government, is available at www.unos.org.
A History of Excellence
A short waitlist is just one of the UW Health Pancreas Transplant program's many strengths. The program has amassed many accomplishments over the past 28 years, including:
- Performing the first pancreas transplant treated with mycophenolate mofetil, an immunosuppressant molecule developed here that is now the worldwide standard.
- Performing the first pancreas transplant preserved with a solution developed at UW that leads to more viability and better cellular preservation. That solution is now the preferred choice in the United States.
"It is hard to imagine that our already excellent program could continue to be improving, but we are," says Dr. Odorico. "Our outcomes are superb and among the best nationwide."
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