Transplantation of pancreatic islet cells from deceased donors are used to treat some of the worst cases of type 1 diabetes -- patients for whom the risk of life-threatening episodes of hypoglycemia is greatest. Islet transplantion in becoming more efficient, and the cost now is comparable to whole-pancreas transplantation, according to UCSF surgeon Andrew Posselt, MD. Islet transplantation is less invasive to patients. Costs have been a limiting factor on insurance coverage, despite the growing success of transplantation procedures.
The dark blue line charts total US pancreas and islet transplants over time. The red line charts simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplants from deceased donors. The green line charts live kidney transplant followed by pancreas transplant from a deceased donor. The purple line tracks pancreas transplants alone. The light blue line tracks islet transplantation. Kidney failure is a frequent complication of type 1 diabetes.