Treatments & Procedures

Islet Transplant
At the Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center, our expert transplant team begins by conducting a detailed health evaluation and assessment to give us an accurate picture of your fitness for the procedure. 

During the evaluation, you will meet with a financial counselor to review your insurance coverage and discuss the financial considerations associated with an islet transplant. Also, you will meet with a social worker who will conduct an evaluation to ensure that you and your family are emotionally prepared for the stress that often accompanies the transplant process.

While on the Wait List
You may not need to be on a waiting list for an islet transplant if islets can be harvested from your own pancreas after removal. 

Patients who are accepted by the program and do need to be placed on a waiting list are put on a national computer wait list kept by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to ensure that all patients in need of a transplant are given fair access to donor organs. Rules, called allocation policies, have been established to determine how transplant candidates are ranked on the wait list for each type of organ. To qualify for islet transplantation, you must either have diabetes and depend on insulin injections or maintain a hemoglobin A1c value that is greater than 6.5 percent.

During the waiting period
Once you are on the list, your wait for donor islets begins. You will be seen in the transplant clinic for labs and follow-up appointments. During the waiting period, you and your caregivers are encouraged to attend our education classes on the transplant process. 

The Islet Transplant Surgery
Prior to the procedure, you will undergo a drug regimen that suppresses the immune system so that the new cells are more likely to be accepted by your body.
An islet transplant differs from other organ transplants. A radiologist uses ultrasound and radiography to guide a catheter through your upper abdomen and into the portal vein of the liver, where the islet cells are then infused. The process takes about an hour.

Learn more about pancreas transplants if you are having your pancreas removed at time of islet transplant.

After Islet Transplant Surgery
Although islet transplants can be an outpatient procedure, most patients require a short hospital stay of one to two days.  Recovery time from the procedure itself is minimal, but you must continuously remain on immunosuppressive drugs to avoid rejection of the new islet cells. Side effects from these drugs can increase the amount of time that you need to remain hospitalized. 

Islets start to release insulin soon after transplantation, but full islet function and new blood vessel growth associated with the islets take time. Your physician will order tests to check blood glucose levels after the transplant. You will probably be given insulin until the islets are fully functional.

Going Home and Staying Healthy
You will leave the hospital and continue your daily activities. Our team will monitor the progression of your diabetes and how you are responding to the immunosuppressive drugs, so you must be available for clinic appointments and lab tests.

In addition, the transplant team will work with you to create a healthy diet and exercise plan, one that will help you lessen the effects of diabetes.

To read more detailed information about what to expect regarding the general transplant process and what issues you will need to address once you return home after your transplant, click here.


Our physicians specialize in islet transplantation at the following locations:

Our physicians conduct pre and posttransplant evaluations at the following convenient locations.