University of Minnesota Health has the world’s largest total pancreatectomy and islet auto-transplant (TP-IAT) program. During the procedure, the surgeon first removes the pancreas. Next, specially trained technicians break down the pancreas into its components and separate out the islets. This process is similar to the way a blood bank separates red blood cells from white blood cells for transfusions.
The islet team then returns the islets to the operating room, and the surgeon injects them into the patient's liver. If successful, the islet cells in the liver will produce insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal, supported with supplemental insulin injections if necessary. Since the islets are the patient's own cells, there is no risk that they will be rejected by the body.
Children in our program are in safe, experienced hands at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. In 1977, University of Minnesota Physicians performed the first TP-IAT in the world. Since then, our surgeons have performed more than 600 procedures, with over 100 of them on children ages 3 to 18. Children with severe pain from acute recurrent or chronic pancreatitis often experience resolution of pain and improved quality of life after TP-IAT.
The most important aspect of TP-IAT is pain relief. Nearly all children (95 percent) say that their pain is gone or diminished after the surgery. TP-IAT may also prevent diabetes in some children. The chance to relieve pain and prevent diabetes at the same time is an option that all patients with chronic pancreatitis should have.