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Chronic Pancreatitis 

Autologous Islet Cell Transplantation

Patients who have long-term chronic pancreatitis experience severe pain. When all other therapeutic options have been exhausted, a total pancreatectomy may be recommended. This procedure relieves pain, but the patient is left with brittle diabetes.

Through the Baylor FDA-approved Pancreatic Islet Cell Processing Laboratory, a patient may receive an auto-transplant of his or her own islet cells, a procedure that is not considered experimental.

After surgical removal, the pancreas is taken to the lab where islet cells are extracted from the malfunctioning organ. These cells are then re-infused into the patient where they are taken up into the liver for possible insulin production.

Approximately 40 percent of auto islet transplant patients do not need to use insulin once the islet cells start working from their new location in the liver. Research at Baylor reveals other auto islet transplant patients may still need to use some insulin to control their blood sugar levels; however, it is usually a reduced amount. Patients report substantial pain relief and reduction or total elimination of narcotics. Patients do not have to take immunosuppressant drugs like most transplant recipients because their body is receiving its own islets (autologous) and not those from a donor.

Symptoms of Chronic Pancreatitis

When the pancreas is not working well, common symptoms are:

  • Abdominal pain - Ongoing pain is a serious consequence of chrocni pancreatitis. Many patients are dependent on narcotis and have a decreased quality of life.
  • Nausea/Vomiting - Eating and drinking can make the pain of pancreatitis worse and often result in nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea - Inability to breakdwon foods properly and poor eating/drinking habits may result in diarrhea and dehydration.
  • Weight Loss - Caused by poor nutrition and inability of the pancreas to secrete sufficient enzymes to digest food.
  • Oily Stools - Excess fat is secreted in stools due to the inability to digest foods properly and lack of sufficient digestive enzymes.