Patients with chronic pancreatitis have the option of having an auto — meaning "self" — islet transplant after a total pancreatectomy, which is the removal of the entire pancreas. A pancreatectomy is usually performed to relieve pain in patients when all other treatments fail, but it induces permanent diabetes, requiring patients to take insulin shots or use an insulin pump for the rest of their lives.
An islet autotransplant after a pancreatectomy would preserve a patient's ability to secrete insulin and reduce the risk of developing surgically induced diabetes.
During an islet autotransplant, the patient's own islet cells are isolated from the removed pancreas. They are then put back into the patient, where they start producing insulin.
Pancreatectomy patients who have an islet autotransplant have a 50 percent chance of becoming insulin dependant for life rather than a 100 percent chance without the islet autotransplant.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.