Intermountain Medical Center

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Donor Pancreases and the Waiting List

After all of your testing is complete, your case is presented in a multi-disciplinary selection meeting where your options are discussed by surgeons, nephrologists, nurses, financial coordinators, social workers, and nutritionists. From here, a majority of patients are placed on the waiting list for a cadaveric pancreas donation.

Where can a pancreas for transplantation come from? Deceased pancreas donors did not have significant health problems that affected their pancreas—the donor’s cause of death is usually an accident or sudden illness. Donors are expected to have good pancreas function. Pancreas donors are screened and may be excluded for positive HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or high-risk activity. Any high-risk donor characteristic will be discussed with you, if you are a potential recipient for that donor pancreas.

How is a pancreas from a deceased donor allocated? A pancreas from a deceased donor is allocated according to the policy of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Factors that contribute to the allocation process include: ABO blood type, antibody levels, and waiting list time.

How does the waiting list work? If you are accepted as a transplant candidate, your name will be placed on the UNOS waiting list at Intermountain Medical Center. The pancreas transplant waiting list is a list of transplant candidates maintained by UNOS. You will begin to build up waiting list time on the day you are listed—you will receive a letter telling you that date. You should be monitored by your nephrologist while you are on the waiting list.

How long will I wait? The average waiting time for a pancreas transplant at Intermountain Medical Center can vary from a few months to a year, depending on several different factors:

  • ABO blood type—the pancreas needs to come from a donor with a compatible blood type
  • Your antibody level—this measures the strength of antibodies within your system. A high level of antibodies makes it more difficult to find a compatible donor for you.
  • The availability of an organ

How does a “pancreas offer” from the waiting list work? When a donor organ becomes available, the transplant coordinator will call you. You will always have the right to decline an organ. If the organ is determined by the surgeon to be unusable, or if there is an incompatible cross match, you will be discharged home without the transplant.

Are there risks from the donated pancreas itself? Certain conditions in the donor may affect the success of your pancreas transplant. These include the donor’s history, the condition of the organ when it is received, and the potential risk that you may contract infectious diseases or cancer if the doctor cannot detect them in the donated pancreas.

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