Transplant Candidates

Who Is a Pancreas and Islet Cell Transplantation Candidate?

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes that’s difficult to control, you might be a candidate for pancreatic and islet cell transplantation.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin, so patients must take insulin to live. Over time, diabetes can cause complications such as:

  • Kidney failure
  • Neuropathy (problems with nerves, such as numbness and pain)
  • Poor circulation that may result in amputation
  • Retinopathy (decreased vision or even blindness)
  • Hypoglycemic unawareness (low blood sugars that you do not realize are low)
  • Earlier onset of heart disease
  • Gastropathy (digestive problems)

If you are experiencing those complications, talk to your physician* about pancreas and islet cell transplantation. Criteria for acceptance as a pancreas transplant include:

  • A pancreas transplant could improve your quality of life.
  • You have no other diseases that cannot be treated.
  • You are not so sick that you are not likely to survive the transplant surgery. All other medical or surgical treatments either have not worked or are not a good choice for you.
  • There are no other contraindications.
  • You and your support system (family, friends) understand and accept the risks of having a kidney/pancreas transplant.
  • You and your support systems are fully committed to and compliant with what is needed before and after the transplant, to make the transplant a success. This would include access to funding for the transplant procedure, post-transplant medicines and other healthcare costs. The social worker and patient financial liaison may be able to help find other ways to pay for your care.

A pancreas transplant is not an option for patients who have:

  • Severe, untreatable heart or lung disease
  • Active or uncontrollable cancer
  • Untreatable mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug addiction
  • Severe neurologic deficit
  • Severe peripheral vascular disease (PVD)
  • Uncontrollable infection that will not go away with a transplant
  • Uncontrolled HIV infection with AIDS despite optimal medical therapy
  • Irreversible brain disease or damage
  • Failure of other organs that will not improve with a transplant

If you are approved for a pancreas or islet cell transplant, your name will be put on a waiting list to receive a donated organ or islet cells. People with the most urgent need are placed at the top of the list. Never will race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation have any part in deciding if a patient is a transplant candidate.

Auto-islet transplantation following total pancreatectomy

If you are facing a total pancreatectomy due to chronic pancreatitis, you may be an eligible candidate for our auto-islet transplantation program. Once your pancreas is removed by the pancreatic surgeons, the islet cell team* will isolate the islets of Langerhans. These cells will be infused through the portal vein into your liver. Because they are your own cells, no immunosuppression is required. If successful, you will not become insulin-dependent; rather, you will have the same glycemic (blood sugar) control as prior to pancreatectomy.

Related Resources



  • The American Diabetes Association (ADA): The nation’s leading nonprofit health organization providing diabetes research, information and advocacy.
  • American Society of Transplantation: This website’s Patient Information section offers a number of resources for transplant patients.
  • Coalition on Donation: The organization promotes organ donation and provides education about it.
  • dLife Diabetes Resources: This comprehensive site provides diabetics with disease education, resources, research and a television show about diabetes on CNBC called dLifeTV.

  • Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network: Website of the not-for-profit organ procurement organization that works with hospitals and donor families in the northern three-fourths of Illinois and northwest Indiana. The organization is responsible for the recovery of organs and tissue for medical transplantation in the service area, as well as for professional and public education on organ and tissue donation.
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF): This nonprofit health organization provides diabetes research, information, education and advocacy for type 1 juvenile onset diabetes.
  • National Diabetes Information Clearing House (DNIC): This is the part of the National Institute of Health involved in diabetic research and treatment options.
  • MedicineNet: This site provides health and medical information from physicians on many topics, including diabetes, the pancreas and islet cells.
  • MedlinePlus: This is a trusted source that covers all aspects of organ donation and provides easy access to medical journal articles, extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials and the latest health news.
  • National Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is undertaking this initiative to ease the critical shortage of organ and tissue donors by building a national community of organ sharing.
  • Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN): OPTN is a unique public-private partnership that links all of the professionals involved in the donation and transplantation system. Its goals are to increase the supply of donated organs available for transplantation and the effectiveness and efficiency of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
  • Transplant Living: This is the United Network for Organ Sharing patient education site for all transplant patients.
  • TransWeb: TransWeb's mission is to provide information about donation and transplantation to the general public to promote organ donation and to provide transplant families with information dealing specifically with transplant issues.
  • United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS): Through the UNOS Organ Center, organ donors are matched to waiting recipients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Through its policies, UNOS ensures that all patients have a fair chance at receiving the organ they need—regardless of age, sex, race, lifestyle, religion, or financial or social status. UNOS members include every transplant program, organ procurement organization and tissue typing laboratory in the United States.
  • U.S. Transplant—Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR): The SRTR supports the ongoing evaluation of the scientific and clinical status of solid organ transplantation in the United States.

In the spirit of keeping you well-informed, some of the physician(s) and/or individual(s) identified are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. They have selected our facilities as places where they want to treat and care for their private patients.