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Islet Cell Transplant Process

Waiting Period
 
The UW Health islet cell transplant program tests patients to see if their screening test results meet the inclusion criteria. Qualified patients will be notified and placed on the islet transplant waiting list.
 
During the waiting period, our transplant coordinators will maintain contact with the patient, family members and local physicians. 
 
When a suitable organ is obtained, the coordinators contact the patient and discuss travel and arrange admission.
 
At the Hospital
 
Upon admission, patients undergo a pre-transplant evaluation and then the islet transplant procedure. The procedure can either be done in the radiology suite or the operating room. With both methods, the islets are infused into the liver vein over a 20- to 30-minute period. The procedure generally takes approximately one hour. Patients remain awake throughout the procedure, although an intravenous sedative and local anesthetic are administered beforehand to relieve discomfort.
 
Patients receive specialized post-transplant care from the medical and nursing staff in the transplant unit. The expected hospital stay is approximately three to five days but can be longer. Subjects might have to receive more than one (and up to three) islet transplant procedures that can require subsequent hospitalizations. Following islet transplantation, insulin injections will slowly be reduced over approximately the next month as the transplant gradually begins to function.
 
Discharge and Follow-up
 
All patients remain in contact with transplant coordinators two to three times per week in the immediate post-discharge period and, as their medical condition warrants, with regular but decreasing frequency. Post-transplant follow-up testing is performed on a regular basis at a local hospital or clinical laboratory, with the results reported to the transplant office.
 
In addition, patients must be seen regularly at the Transplant Clinic to monitor their condition and make adjustments to their immunosuppressive regimen. As part of the monitoring protocol for the islet transplantation, metabolic tests will be conducted after islet cell transplantation to test for insulin production and islet transplant function.
 
Transplant patients must make a lifetime commitment to ensure continued organ function and their own long-term survival. They are followed throughout their lives by a team consisting of transplant surgeons, physicians and coordinators, as well as local physicians. Although it is recommended that patients continue to receive their primary health care in the local community, treatment for transplant-related conditions should be directed by the transplant team.