New Treatment May Prevent Diabetes After Pancreatitis Surgery

NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center is first in New York metro area to offer auto islet transplantation.

Islet cellsNewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center now offers total pancreatectomy with autologous islet cell transplantation, or auto islet surgery, to prevent diabetes in patients who would benefit from having their entire pancreas removed for chronic pancreatitis and other benign pancreatic diseases. A national leader in diabetes care, the hospital is the first center in the New York metropolitan area to offer this treatment.

Every year, roughly 87,000 people in the United States receive surgical treatment for pancreatitis, a debilitating condition that causes intense abdominal pain and, potentially, diabetes. Pancreatitis can be so painful that in some cases, patients must have the entire pancreas removed. While surgery to remove the pancreas (pancreatectomy) relieves pain in 90% of cases, patients are left without the ability to produce insulin, causing a difficult-to-treat form of Type 1 diabetes known as “brittle diabetes.”

Beth Schrope, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, and Mark A. Hardy, MD, Director Emeritus and Founder, Renal & Islet Transplantation, look onas Joseph Dinorcia III, MD, Surgical Resident, uses a Ricordi chamber to harvest and purify pancreatic islet

In auto islet surgery, the patient’s islet cells, which produce hormones that regulate the endocrine system, are extracted from the pancreas after it is removed. The cells are then processed and re-infused into the patient’s liver, where they may eventually produce insulin to regulate blood sugar.

The most recent findings show that about one third of patients require no insulin therapy after autologous islet transplantation, another third require some insulin therapy after the procedure, and the procedure is unsuccessful in preventing diabetes in the remaining third.

“The goal of pancreatectomy is to relieve pain,” says Beth A. Schrope, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Surgery. Dr. Schrope specializes in the treatment of pancreatitis and has spearheaded the auto islet transplant surgery protocol at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. “Returning to normal activities and living without pain is a tremendous improvement in patients’ quality of life. Now with islet transplantation, there’s an added bonus—the possible prevention of diabetes.”

NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center is currently accepting patients for auto islet surgery, through a joint effort of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia’s Pancreas Center and the Stem Cell Processing and Cell Therapy Laboratory of the Department of Pathology. Patients who need a total pancreatectomy for benign diseases (such as chronic pancreatitis) may be eligible for this procedure to avoid Type 1 diabetes.

Watch a video of Dr. Beth Schrope discuss auto islet transplantation at and learn more at

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