University of Minnesota Health has the world’s largest total pancreatectomy and islet auto-transplant (TP-IAT) program in the world. A pancreatectomy is surgery to remove the pancreas. However, without a pancreas to produce insulin, which controls blood sugar, diabetes develops. To solve this problem, during our TP-IAT procedure, technicians isolate islet cells from the removed pancreas, and the surgeon puts them into the liver where they can continue to produce insulin. In some cases, this procedure can help the patient maintain normal blood sugar levels under all conditions, thus reducing any need for insulin and improving quality of life.
Specialists with University of Minnesota Health pioneered and performed the first TP-IAT in the world in 1977. Since then, our surgeons have performed more than 650 procedures. Thanks to our pioneering work, the University of Minnesota Medical Center is the only medical center in the Twin Cities to be named a National Pancreas Foundation Center. Only 30 medical centers in the United States received this designation.
Several resources on our campus serve patients with chronic pancreatitis. Our Pancreas and Biliary Clinic at the University of Minnesota Medical Center combines our gastroenterology and surgical experts in one location to treat complex conditions of the pancreas, bile ducts and gallbladder. In collaboration with the Schulze Diabetes Institute (SDI), surgeons from our transplant and general surgery divisions perform TP-IAT for severe cases of chronic pancreatitis. The SDI, created in 1994, is one of only a handful of centers in the world to perform allo-islet cell transplantation for type 1 diabetes and auto-islet transplant for chronic pancreatitis.
We are pleased with our success so far. About 40 percent of patients become insulin independent after TP-IAT, and 90 percent have at least some function of their transplanted islets, which helps make diabetes easier to manage.