Robotic Surgery Improves Pancreas Transplant Outcomes for People with Type 1 Diabetes

Robotic Surgery Improves Pancreas Transplant Surgery Outcomes for People with Type 1 Diabetes

-Craig Idlebrook

A new robotic surgical technique may lead to more success in pancreatic transplants for people with type 1 diabetes.

In a study published in the journal Transplant International, University of Illinois researchers chronicled how they discovered that a robot-assisted surgery might lead to better medical outcomes with pancreatic transplant surgery for people with type 1 diabetes. 

For the study, the researchers tracked 49 pancreas transplant surgeries over a four-year period, with 77 percent of those surgeries involving people with type 1 diabetes. Ten of those surgeries involved obese people with type 1 diabetes. Traditionally, obese people with type 1 diabetes are not good candidates for pancreatic transplant, as they frequently have high rates of infection and other complications with the surgery. UI Health surgeons utilized robotic-assisted surgical techniques for 8 out of 10 of those surgeries.

What the researchers found was that those eight patients who underwent the robotically assisted procedure experienced less blood loss and had shorter postoperative hospital stays than those who underwent the traditional procedure, according to a press release. None of the eight patients developed wound complications.

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The researchers believe this is because the robotically assisted surgery reduces the length of incisions needed for the surgery. For people with type 1 diabetes undergoing this surgery, it’s  particularly important because they often heal at a slower rate than the average population and must take immunosuppressive drugs for their bodies not to reject transplanted organs. While the surgical technique was utilized on obese patients, the researchers say the technique might improve outcomes for other people with type 1 diabetes who undergo the surgery.

While better techniques would open up the possibility of more pancreas transplants, the procedure would still be undertaken only when all other options for type 1 diabetes treatment are first exhausted. Even with immunosuppressive drugs, some patients may need more than one transplant in a lifetime, and there is an acute shortage of donor pancreases available.

This is a small initial study documenting the outcomes of a new surgical technique, but it may encourage other researchers to attempt to replicate the initial findings in larger studies.


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