The Chronic Pancreatitis and Autologous Islet Cell Transplant Program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital brings hope to those suffering with the debilitating abdominal pain of chronic pancreatitis.

As one of the few centers in the world offering autologous islet cell transplants, patients from throughout the country can find relief from their painful symptoms while reducing or avoiding the complications of diabetes.

Procedure

After undergoing complete removal of the pancreas (total pancreatectomy), a patient’s own islet cells (cells that produce insulin) are removed from the pancreas and infused back into the patient’s liver via the portal vein where they take hold and produce insulin. Our team of experts has developed a specialized technique for this procedure, published in Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Islet-Cell-Procedure

Specialists

MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute Islet Cell Transplant program involves an experienced team of experts from many specialties, including gastroenterology, pain management, endocrinology and nutrition.

This team is at the forefront of this procedure with extensive clinical experience, research involvement, and an understanding of the frustrations and difficulties those with chronic pancreatitis face. They provide patients compassionate care with access to the most up-to-date treatments

Evaluation

A candidate for the procedure will typically meet these criteria:

  • Severe, debilitating pain that is no longer controlled by medication and may be causing repeated hospitalizations to receive intravenous (IV) pain medication
  • All other treatment options are exhausted, including endoscopic procedures to treat the pancreatitis
  • The pancreas still has endocrine function

If a patient is not a candidate for an islet cell transplant for any reason, the MedStar Health team will identify the best course of treatment to help with symptoms.

Learn more about the transplant evaluation process.

Recovery

After the pancreas is removed and the islet cells transplanted into the liver, the patient’s glucose levels are closely monitored. Within one to two weeks, the islet cells may begin producing insulin.

Most patients (over 90 percent) with chronic pancreatitis who undergo a total pancreatectomy with autologous islet transplantation find complete pain relief or a significant pain reduction from the condition. About one-third of these patients will not develop diabetes or require insulin after the procedure. For those who do require insulin, their diabetes will be less severe than it would have been without the islet cell transplant.

Learn more about transplant recovery.