Pancreas transplant

Performing more pancreas transplants than any other program in the nation

If you or a loved one need a pancreas transplant, UW Health's team knows what it takes to ensure the greatest outcome possible. Our wait times are short and our transplant doctors and surgeons are among the nation's best.
Doug Greer 677000-2099

Overview

What we do

Pancreas transplant ends the unpredictability, pain and constant fear that you’re not managing your blood sugar numbers well enough.

A pancreas transplant might be performed if you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes or are diabetic because you had your pancreas removed.

You might qualify for a pancreas transplant if you have any of the following:

  • Reduced awareness of your low blood sugars

  • Are not doing well with pump and sensor technology

  • Severely erratic blood sugar readings and are experiencing frequent emergency room visits or hospitalizations

If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and are insulin-dependent and have poor kidney function, you might qualify for a combined pancreas and kidney transplant.

The UW Health pancreas transplant team has performed more than 1,850 pancreas transplants and more than 1,400 combined pancreas/kidney transplants. We’re the number one hospital in Wisconsin as ranked by U.S News and World Report and are a Center of Excellence for most insurance networks. Our wait times are among the shortest in the nation, and our outcomes are excellent.

Why choose UW Health?

Learn about our program

Compassionate, customized care

Our expert team is committed to providing care that is tailored to your specific needs. Many of our providers have been working together for more than 20 years. You won’t find that sort of stability with any other program in the nation.

Shorter wait times

Our wait times are among the shortest in the nation.

Excellent patient success

Our outcomes remain strong even as we transplant patients that other programs would deny.

The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) provides data about each transplant center's volume and outcomes.

Combined kidney and pancreas transplant

Our team performs more combined kidney and pancreas transplants than any other program in the nation. Our experts work together to manage the complex care of patients who have poor kidney function and will benefit from a pancreas transplant.

Innovation and research

UW Health pancreas transplant is part of an academic medical center with research and teaching as part of its mission. This allows for and supports the most available leading-edge medication protocols, technology, organ recovery techniques, surgical techniques and post-transplant care. Learn more about our research

Before and after transplant

What to expect

Pancreas and kidney/pancreas transplant end the life-restricting issues you experience from living with diabetes or dialysis. We will support you as you go through your transplant journey and make it as streamlined as possible.

Our specially trained and certified transplant nurse coordinators organize your care. They oversee all aspects of your treatment from your initial referral to long-term follow-up care. They are your personal source of information and work with your doctors to manage your care before and after your transplant.

Our team will work with you — and the people who are supporting you during your transplant journey — so you know how to stay healthy, protect your new organ or organs and get back to an active, healthy life.

Evaluation

Your pancreas or kidney/pancreas transplant evaluation begins with a day of tests and visits with our team. Our experts will evaluate your results and review your health history to decide if a transplant will improve your quality of life. If you are a good candidate for a transplant, more tests may be done.

Waiting period

If you choose to proceed with a transplant, you will be added to the national waitlist. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) matches donor organs with people who need them. They consider blood type, body size and other factors. Depending on the urgency of your situation, your wait may be days or years. Our wait times are among the shortest in the nation.

During your waiting period, we see you regularly to track your health and to update your status with UNOS. This is important as the urgency of your need for a transplant may change. We also teach you how to prepare for life after your transplant.

Surgery

We will call you when donor organ(s) become available for you. We will tell you when you should plan to arrive at the hospital, usually within 2 to 6 hours. We can help you arrange transportation. Surgery will take place as soon as possible.

However, sometimes after people arrive, we determine that the organ(s) aren’t good for a transplant. If this happens, you may be discharged from the hospital. You will remain high on the waiting list and we will continue to search for a high-quality organ and the right match.

Your pancreas transplant will take 3-4 hours and a pancreas and kidney transplant will take 6-8 hours. You will likely be in the hospital six to eight days. We will teach you about your new medications, self-care and discuss your follow-up care plan. If you live more than 8 hours away, we ask you to stay in the area for one to two weeks until we know it’s safe for you to go home.

Follow-up care

After your transplant, you’ll require lifelong follow-up care. We monitor how well your pancreas or pancreas and kidney are working and watch for signs of infection or that your body is rejecting your new organ(s). We will order lab tests and schedule appointments to monitor your health so you can live a normal, active and healthy life.

Advanced treatment options

Our procedures

UW Health is an academic medical center offering the latest technologies and most advanced therapies. We provide services including solitary pancreas transplant, combined kidney/pancreas transplant and pancreatectomy with autologous islet transplantation.

Pancreas transplant

If you are an insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetic and experience hypoglycemic unawareness, you may benefit from a pancreas transplant. Some people with Type 2 diabetes can be candidates for a transplant.

Combined pancreas and kidney transplant

If you are an insulin-dependent Type 1 or Type 2 diabetic who is also in kidney failure, you may be a candidate for a combined pancreas and kidney transplant or a pancreas-after-kidney transplant. You may receive a kidney and a pancreas at the same time from a deceased donor. Some patients first have a kidney transplant — usually from a living donor — and then receive a new pancreas later from a deceased donor.

View our pancreas/kidney quality reports

Pancreatectomy with autologous islet transplantation

This is a cutting-edge treatment to prevent diabetes in people who must have their pancreas removed due to pancreatitis (pain and recurring inflammation of the pancreas). Without your pancreas, you are in a diabetic state. To stop that, we do an autologous islet transplant. We remove the islet cells from your pancreas and put them into your liver. The islet cells produce insulin, which reduces or eliminates the need for insulin injections. Because the islet cells are yours, you do not need to take medicine to stop your body from rejecting the cells. We are the only center in Wisconsin, and among few in the nation who are experienced in this procedure.

Patient stories

Freedom from diabetes: Inspiring patient stories

More than 1,850 people have received a new pancreas at UW Health. Here are just a few of their stories.

Woman painting on on easel outdoors.
Lorry Adkins
"Now I can do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it."

For about 20 years, Lorry Adkins lived in constant fear that she would lose consciousness due to low blood sugar from her Type 1 diabetes. The woman from Knoxville, Iowa, nearly died twice during those episodes.

Smiling woman.
Tashiana Smith
"I felt as though I would never get to live my life the way I really wanted to live it."

Tashiana "Tash" Smith was just 10 years old when she learned she had Type 1 diabetes. She spent days — sometimes weeks — in the hospital for ketoacidosis, with dangerous blood sugar levels.

Man leaning against tree.
Chue Yang
“If somebody didn’t donate this kidney to me, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Chue Yang’s health took a nosedive when the Madison, Wisconsin man suffered a stroke that paralyzed part of his arm and leg. He learned that the stroke was a result of uncontrolled diabetes, which was also causing his kidneys to fail.

Doug Greer smiling outdoors.
Doug Greer
“This is possible. It does work. To me, it’s a true miracle."

Over the course of his 34 years as an American Airlines flight attendant, Doug Greer has paged through the American Way in-flight magazine hundreds of times. He never anticipated that his reading material would inspire him to pursue a life-changing surgery.

Mary Zingg smiling.
Merry Zingg
"It’s such a great feeling to be able to eat and exercise and not have to wonder whether I will end up in the emergency room."

One night, when Merry Zingg’s husband was out of town, she was so concerned her blood sugar would drop dangerously low overnight that she called the 911 dispatcher.

Meet our team

Experts who care

We have a large group of specialists who focus on you. They serve pancreas and kidney/pancreas transplant patients and have deep knowledge and great experience in transplantation.

Our pancreas and kidney/pancreas transplant team includes surgeons who specialize in pancreas and kidney transplants, nephrologists (kidney specialists) and certified transplant nurse coordinators. The team also includes dedicated transplant physician assistants, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, dietitians, social workers and financial counselors. Together, they make sure you get the right medical care and the best possible support.

Locations

Quality care near you

We offer pre- and post-pancreas transplant services in Green Bay, Madison, Marshfield, Sparta, Waukesha, Wisconsin and in Rockford, Illinois. Transplant surgery is performed at University Hospital in Madison. We can use telemedicine to ensure your safety and to optimize communications between you and our team.

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  • University Hospital - Pancreas Transplant Clinic
    • 600 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 262-5420
    • Closed now
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Celebrate your organ anniversary

Transplant recipients are often looking for a way to share their gratitude for the gift of life they received. An organ transplant anniversary date is a good time to remind people about the difference that an organ donor made.

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Patient support and services

Information and resources

The following resources and information may be helpful before and after your transplant.



National leaders in transplant care

View more information important to every transplant patient.

Transplant services