Once you're assessed as being suitable for a pancreas transplant, you have to join the national waiting list. It's not possible to have one straight away because of the lack of available pancreases.

It may be several months, or possibly years, before a suitable donor pancreas becomes available.

In the UK, half of the people waiting for a pancreas transplant will have had one by around 13 months.

You will usually be able to stay at home until a pancreas becomes available.

The transplant centre can offer support, guidance and information while you wait for a suitable donor to be found.

They will be fully aware that many people find this a frustrating and frightening experience.

Waiting for a suitable donor

While waiting for a donated pancreas to become available, it's important to stay as healthy as possible by:

The transplant centre will need to be able to contact you at short notice, so you should inform staff if your contact details change.

You should also let staff know if your health changes – for example, if you develop an infection.

Prepare an overnight bag and make arrangements with your friends, family and employer so you can go to the transplant centre as soon as a donor pancreas becomes available.

Coping with being on the waiting list

Living with severe diabetes can be strenuous enough – the added anxiety of waiting for a pancreas to become available can make the situation even more difficult.

This can have an effect on both your physical and mental health.

Contact your GP or the transplant centre for advice if you're struggling to cope emotionally with the demands of waiting for a transplant.

You may also find it useful to contact a support group, such as Diabetes UK or Diabetes.co.uk, or a local kidney patients association if you're also waiting for a kidney transplant.

Getting the call

When a suitable donor pancreas is found, the transplant centre will contact you and ask you to go to the centre.  

When you hear from the transplant centre:

  • do not eat or drink anything (unless your blood sugar is very low)
  • take all current medicines with you
  • take a bag of clothes and essentials for your hospital stay

At the transplant centre, you'll be reassessed quickly to make sure no new medical conditions have developed.

When the medical team has confirmed that you and the donor pancreas are suitable, you will be given a general anaesthetic.

The procedure must be carried out as quickly as possible to have the best chance of success.

Read more about what happens during a pancreas transplant.

Transplant centres

Pancreas transplants are carried out at specialist transplant centres.

UK transplant centres that perform pancreas transplants are located in:

Page last reviewed: 20/06/2016

Next review due: 01/12/2018