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Five things you should know about total pancreatectomy and islet auto-transplant (TP-IAT) surgery

The University of Minnesota Health adult and pediatric TP-IAT programs are among the most advanced and established programs of their kind in the world
Surgeon Greg Beilman, MD, the surgical director of the TP-IAT Program, performed a TP-IAT operation on Rachel to treat her chronic pancreatitis. Beilman, the chief of general surgery at University of Medical Center, is one of a handful of specialists involved with our TP-IAT program.

Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can cause debilitating, life-altering abdominal pain, and often the only option is total removal of the pancreas, called a total pancreatectomy.

But that operation by itself will result in diabetes, because islet cells found in the pancreas secrete insulin that controls blood glucose levels. That’s why our surgeons perform a double procedure known as a total pancreatectomy and islet auto-transplant (TP-IAT). During the procedure, our team removes the pancreas, then separates islet cells from the organ. Those cells are returned to the body using an injection in the patient’s liver. There, they will take root and continue to produce insulin, decreasing the chances for diabetes.

It’s a complex procedure, but we’ve broken down the highlights below.

  • The double procedure can dramatically improve your quality of life.
    Nearly 95 percent of our patients say their pain is gone or diminished after the surgery. Our former patient, Emma, said hereditary chronic pancreatitis had taken over her life before the surgery. After the treatment was completed, her life improved and she doesn’t have to worry about return trips to the hospital. “I can just live life like a normal teenager again, and it’s awesome,” Emma said.
  • The University of Minnesota Health adult and pediatric TP-IAT programs are among the most advanced and established programs of their kind in the world.
    In 1977—just over a decade after University of Minnesota surgeons performed the world’s first pancreas transplant—pioneering surgeon David Sutherland, MD, PhD, and his team performed the world’s first TP-IAT procedure as a way to prevent or minimize diabetes after removal of the pancreas. To date, our surgeons have done more than 550 TP-IAT procedures—more than three times the number completed at any other center. More than 100—or roughly one in four—of those procedures were performed on children between the ages of 3 and 18. We are one of only a small handful of medical centers in the world that perform this procedure.
  • Our multidisciplinary team provides extensive care and support.
    Surgeons, digestive health specialists, care coordinators, nutritionists, psychologists. Those are just a few of the many care providers who will ensure your care here is seamless and extensive. Our diverse medical team will play an extensive role in your preparation, surgery and recovery. We treat the whole person, not just the condition, and our team approach can decrease recovery time.
  • We offer minimally invasive techniques and access to innovative clinical trials.
    We have made recent innovations in the TP-IAT procedure to reduce incisions and promote healing. Our surgeons take a minimally invasive laparoscopic approach during the TP-IAT surgery. Smaller incisions reduce blood loss and lessen post-operative pain while ensuring that our patients heal faster. We employ a clinical research coordinator who specializes in leading-edge TP-IAT studies. You may be able to access innovative treatment techniques by participating in these studies. Your participation could lead to advancements that save the lives of other patients.
  • The TP-IAT procedure isn’t the only option.
    We offer many other medical and interventional methods beyond the TP-IAT procedure to treat chronic pancreatitis and the severe pain associated with the condition. Our medical approach uses effective pain management and pancreatic enzyme replacements—supplemental enzymes that that do the work of the pancreas and help relieve meal-related pain. We also specialize in an endoscopic procedures to drain cysts in the pancreas or open blocked pancreatic ducts cause by stones or strictures. Experts from multiple specialties will meet to determine the most appropriate treatment for you.

For an adult TP-IAT consultation, contact:

Patient Last Name A – M
Louise Berry, RN, BS, CCTC, Transplant Coordinator

For an adult TP-IAT consultation, contact:

Patient Last Name N – Z
Leigh Nordmeyer, RNBSN, Transplant Coordinator
612 -624-0276